Hell on tracks as Amtrak brings down Penn Station

April 6, 2017

Editor’s Note: The ongoing debacle at New York City Pennsylvania Station has begun raising serious questions about the ongoing ownership of New York Penn – and, indeed, the entire Northeast Corridor – by Amtrak. We present a full package of coverage by opening with comments from F.K. Plous of Corridor Capital, followed by stories from various notoriously non-shy New York City Media. A quick sample: Today’s front page of The New York Post opened with the headline “DAMTRAK”. Enjoy the coverage. – CCRail Editor

Tenants at New York’s Penn Station are close to demanding Amtrak give them ownership of the station.

By F.K. Plous, Corridor Capital

The tenants at New York’s Penn Station have not yet demanded Amtrak give them ownership of the station, but they’re getting close:  They are openly questioning Amtrak’s ability to manage the property and demanding the station be run by a council including delegates from both commuter agencies New Jersey Transit and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Long Island Rail Road.

A similar arrangement ought to be in place at Chicago Union Station. Metra, Chicago’s regional commuter rail authority, clearly does a better job of managing its eleven routes than Amtrak does with its sole Chicago property, Chicago Union Station Company.

The Chicago station, including approximately two miles of access trackage, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amtrak, which was given the station in 1976 when the federal government created Conrail and redistributed the assets of the bankrupt Penn Central Transportation Company. As at New York’s Penn Station and Boston’s South Station, Amtrak is the owner, but the local commuter authority is by far the station’s biggest user. At Chicago Union Station, Amtrak accounts for about 46 daily train movements, while Metra generates 276. Clearly, the tail is wagging the dog at Amtrak’s owned-and-operated stations.

The case for local ownership of these huge transportation hubs isn’t just about Amtrak’s inadequate management of them – or even about its minority status as a user.  It’s about money.

Amtrak complains its congressional appropriations aren’t big enough to cover the cost of modernizing these century-old properties. That only begs the question of why Congress remains suspicious of Amtrak and keeps it on a limited budget. A case could be made that individual congressmen would be much more likely to appropriate funds for the stations in their districts if these properties were owned and managed by local interests than by a remote federal bureaucracy desperately trying to balance a plateful of nationwide responsibilities.

All politics is local.  Maybe Congress would do a better job of funding these stations if they were local too.

In Letter to Amtrak, Christie Says N.J. Transit Will Halt Payments

Gov. Chris Christie directed New Jersey Transit late Wednesday to halt all payments to Amtrak because of a train derailment on Monday and subsequent delays that have ensnarled Garden State commuters this week, according to two letters obtained by The New York Times.

In a letter to Anthony R. Coscia, the chairman of the Amtrak board, the governor said that he had directed New Jersey Transit “to cease making any payments to Amtrak” until there had been a “thorough and independent examination of the tracks, signals, switches and other equipment maintained by Amtrak” on the Northeast Corridor and verification that the equipment was “in a state-of-good-repair.”

As part of a longstanding agreement, New Jersey Transit pays Amtrak for its use of both the Hudson River tunnels and the Northeast Corridor rail lines, which Amtrak owns. According to the letter, New Jersey Transit pays Amtrak $2.5 million to $5 million a month for operating expenses and recently paid an additional $62 million for capital investments in the Northeast Corridor as part of the agreement. Mr. Christie is directing that these funds be withheld in future payments.

Click here to read the full story.

MTA, NJ Transit blast Amtrak for ‘series of unacceptable infrastructure failures’ after Penn Station derailment

By Dan Rivoli, Ellen Moynihan, and Leonard Greene, New York Daily News

The MTA and NJ Transit railed against Amtrak on Wednesday, blasting their Penn Station landlord over aging infrastructure and poor maintenance in the wake of a derailment that has crippled the commuting hub for much of the week.

Amtrak said it hopes to have full rail service restored by Friday. Crews are working around the clock to restore rails damaged when an NJ Transit train derailed during Monday morning’s rush hour and knocked eight tracks out of commission.

But the repairs aren’t happening fast enough for Amtrak’s angry railroad tenants, or frustrated Penn Station passengers enduring yet another chaotic commute.

Click here to read the full story.

New York Transit Disruption Puts Brakes on Wall Street Workers

By Laila Kearney, Reuters, U.S. News & World Report, April 5, 2017

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street workers who make fortunes with quick deals and fearless trades faced a threat to their fast-paced work style on Wednesday that could not be negotiated: the New York area public transit system.

Two days after a New Jersey Transit train derailed during rush hour at New York’s Penn Station, bankers, traders and other finance workers reported absent colleagues and crippling travel times as employees who commute into the city were forced to work from home or find expensive alternative routes.

Click here to read the full story.

LIRR again cancels 10 morning-rush trains after derailment

From News12 Long Island, April 5, 2017

NEW YORK – The Long Island Rail Road has again canceled 10 morning-rush trains — this time for Thursday — as crews continue to work on tracks that were damaged in Monday’s NJ Transit derailment.

The LIRR says those 10 train cancellations will be between 6 and 10 a.m. Three trains will terminate at Jamaica, and one will divert to Hunterspoint Avenue, Queens. New York City Transit will still be cross-honoring LIRR tickets at those two points, in addition to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.

Click here to read the full story.

Track Flaws Are Focus of Penn Station Derailment Inquiry, Official Says

It is the question on the minds of many in the New York City area: Why is a relatively minor train derailment still wreaking havoc on my commute?

Two days after a New Jersey Transit train derailed at Pennsylvania Station in New York on Monday, eight of the 21 tracks at the station, North America’s busiest, remained closed on Wednesday, prompting a third day of travel chaos across the region.

Officials at Amtrak, which owns Penn Station, said they were working to repair damage caused by the derailment but warned that service might not be fully restored until Friday.

Minor train derailments are not uncommon, but this one occurred at one of the worst possible spots: a switch point where multiple tracks connect and space for workers making repairs is tight.

Click here to read the full story.

Amtrak eyes Friday for full rail service after derailment

By The Associated Press, New York Daily News, April 5, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Amtrak said it hopes to have full rail service restored at New York’s Penn Station by Friday, four days after a second derailment in two weeks caused headaches for commuters at the nation’s busiest rail hub.

Amtrak made its announcement on Wednesday after the heads of the two major commuter rail lines that use Penn Station leveled strong criticisms and called for swifter action.

Rail service has been cut back since Monday morning’s derailment took out eight of 21 tracks maintained by Amtrak.

Click here to read the full story.

Amtrak owes commuters explanations — a lot of explanations

By The Editorial Board, The New York Post, April 5, 2017

What the heck is going on at Penn Station? Amtrak, which operates Penn, owes hundreds of thousands of commuters answers, yesterday if not sooner.

It also needs to explain why it’s been keeping everyone in the dark.

A derailment Monday morning damaged a switch machine, rendering eight of the station’s 21 tracks unusable. That canceled and rerouted service for both 95,000 daily NJ Transit and 115,000 Long Island Rail Road riders — with follow-on snarls for PATH, bus and other commuters.

Click here to read the full editorial opinion.

Hell on tracks as Amtrak brings down Penn Station

New York Daily News Editorials, April 5, 2017

“Lead us not into Penn Station, but deliver us from evil” is an old saw that perfectly fits with the decrepitude of the nation’s busiest railway hub, now exponentially exacerbated by a derailment that is making life hell for hundreds of thousands of commuters from New Jersey and Long Island.

The Monday morning mishap knocked tracks out of commission and threw already unpleasant commutes into total turmoil for now four days running.

NJTransit is running on a weekend and holiday service schedule. And Wednesday, two days after the Monday-morning mishap, the LIRR cancelled 25 evening rush trains from Penn. That’s 30,000 people forced to find another way home.

Click here to read the full editorial opinion.

 

 

 

 

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