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MTA criticizes Amtrak for slow repairs after Penn Station derailment

By TimesLedger Staff

The president of Amtrak, which is scrambling to fix the damage caused by the derailment at Penn Station Monday, said he expected service to be fully restored by Friday morning.

Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak passengers have been coping with widespread delays and curtailed service since three cars of a New Jersey Transit train derailed inside the station at about 9 a.m. Monday, damaging eight of the 21 tracks at the rail center. The latest incident occurred 10 days after an Amtrak train derailed and bumped against an NJT train during rush hour March 25, creating chaos for riders of the three railroads at Penn Station.

Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman blamed both derailments on track problems. There were minor injuries in both accidents.

“It’s our job to make sure that all of passengers, both on Amtrak and on our commuter partners, can travel safely and reliably,” he said. “We know we let them down.”

Amtrak is responsible for maintenance of the tunnels and tracks at Penn Station.

With only 13 tracks available to transport the 600,000 riders who use Penn Station daily, the LIRR, NJT and Amtrak have been forced to cut back service. The Long Island Rail Road canceled 13 westbound trains during the morning rush hour Thursday after a series of similar moves during the week, while NJ Transit trains for the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast were still operating on a holiday schedule. Midtown Direct trains were diverted to Hoboken.

Fernando Ferrer, acting chairman of the MTA, which operates the Long Island Rail Road, and Interim MTA Director Ronnie Hakim sent a letter to Moorman Wednesday saying “the current state of affairs is unacceptable.” The pair said Amtrak was slow to make the critical repairs.

At the news conference Moorman said the derailment occurred in a confined space, which has made it difficult for workers to complete the repairs as quickly as needed.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the target of angry commuter frustration, threatened to sue Amtrak over the derailment and said he was withholding rent payments to Amtrak for the use of Penn Station until the railroad can guarantee that the Northeast Corridor is back in good shape.

Commuters in New Jersey have been particularly hard hit by the service delays, missing work in some cases and suffering long delays during their commutes. Some Queens riders have had their routes interrupted as well.

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