Rider: ‘Worst commute home in the 18 years I’ve been taking NJ Transit’
It took NJ Transit nearly eight hours to recover from two disabled trains and a problem with an overhead wire in the south tube of its Hudson River tunnels Monday, with major impacts on the commute for NJ Transit and Amtrak riders.
NJ Transit said a train heading into New York became disabled about 5 p.m. The issue with Amtrak's overhead catenary wires in the south tube was discovered when a rescue train sent to offload the passengers from the first train also became disabled. A diesel engine had to be used to tow both trains out of the tunnel.
On its Twitter account, NJ Transit said that this cut capacity by 75% as trains going in and out of Penn Station had to share the north tube.
Delays on NJ Transit that started at 30 minutes escalated to 90 minutes. Riders said on social media that they were stuck in trains and crowded platforms with no indication of when they would be able to head home.
Some individual trains had delays of up to two hours heading back to New Jersey. Some Amtrak Northeast Corridor trains were delayed up to four hours.
Commuters posted pictures on social media of crowded platforms in Newark and New York.
A Main/Bergen Line rider with the Twitter username @Rebecca LW told New Jersey 101.5 she thought it was her worst commute in 18 years of riding the rails daily. Barry Evans, of Linden, said it took him 2 1/2 hours to finally leave Penn Station New York after he arrived
Amtrak told ABC 7 Eyewitness News power was lost just outside Penn Station around 4:30 p.m. and restored by 9:30 p.m.
An Amtrak spokeswoman told New Jersey 101.5 there would be no effect on the Tuesday morning commute, but hasn't yet responded to a further message seeking information on the cause of the outage.
At an unrelated event Gov. Phil Murphy said that the experience was "completely and utterly, 1000% unacceptable.”
“I don’t know where there was more frustration, lack of communication or more confusion last night, the Iowa caucuses or New York Penn Station," Murphy said referring to a delay in the relase of caucus results by the Iowa Democratic Party due to “quality checks” and “inconsistencies” in some reporting.
The governor also said he believes the situation was Amtrak's fault because they maintain the Northeast Corridor's but also found blame for NJ Transit as well.
"The lack of proactive, aggressive communication on behalf of NJ Transit is unacceptable. If folks are frustrated and angry, I don’t blame them and so am I," Murphy said.
The issues also affected fans trying to get to the Rangers-Dallas Stars game at the Garden who wound up sitting on a train instead.
The delays come after a 10-page report by the Legislature’s Office of the State Auditor found fault with cost overruns for a brake system called Positive Train Control, required by federal regulators. It also faulted mounting train delays caused by preventable errors and a number of deteriorating bridges that have not been repaired.
In a 19-page response that was included with the auditor’s report released Thursday, NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett once again blamed NJ Transit’s current problems on the previous gubernatorial administration and reiterated efforts that the rail-and-bus agency has taken to hire more engineers and upgrade equipment.
NJ Transit has been one of Gov. Phil Murphy's top concerns and the Democrat devoted part of his annual state-of-the-state speech this month to preview a 10-year strategic plan and 5-year capital plan. Murphy has insisted that NJ Transit has been making strides under his watch but many lawmakers — and commuters — remain skeptical.
Material from the Associated Press and previous reporting by Sergio Bichao was used in this report. Michael Symons contributed to this report.
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