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‘We must do better’: Murphy calls out Amtrak infrastructure for NJ Transit disruptions

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What to Know

  • It has been a frustrating few days for NJ Transit commuters as the transportation agency dealt with ongoing delays and cancellations in and out of New York Penn Station due to Amtrak’s overhead wires debacle — and Gov. Phil Murphy is letting Amtrak know commuters have had it.
  • In a letter to Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia, Murphy voiced his disapproval of the series of infrastructure issues over the past few days that have impacted New Jerseyans.
  • Murphy called these delays “incredibly disruptive to the lives of New Jerseyans” before pointing out the series of infrastructure failures Amtrak has experienced in the span of mere days and the exorbitant amount of money NJ Transit pays Amtrak in order to use and maintain a portion of its track.

It has been a frustrating few days for NJ Transit commuters as the transportation agency dealt with ongoing delays and cancellations in and out of New York Penn Station due to Amtrak’s overhead wires debacle — and Gov. Phil Murphy is letting Amtrak know commuters have had it.

In a letter to Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia, Murphy voiced his disapproval of the series of infrastructure issues over the past few days that have impacted New Jerseyans.

“Yesterday evening,” Murphy’s letter starts, “a complete system failure caused an unmitigated disaster during the rush hour commute for thousands of passengers in the NJ-NY region. Some commuters were stranded for hours at New York Penn Station, while some passengers were even stuck on trains in between tracks for over three hours.”

On Wednesday, NJ Transit said rail service in and out of the midtown transit hub was suspended starting around 6:15 p.m. as a result of the power issues. Amtrak reported that its train service between Philadelphia and New York was “temporarily stopped.”

“Due to downed wires there’s a hold on service between Philadelphia and New York City,” according to an Amtrak spokesperson, adding that the lines were down near Kearny.

Amtrak said after 7 p.m. it expected “extensive delays as crews work to resolve this issue.” Travel into and out of NY-Penn Station was suspended for nearly five hours, but around 10 p.m., an Amtrak spokesperson said trains were starting to move south.

A number of trains or services between New York and Philadelphia were canceled Wednesday night. Amtrak said it had returned to regular service by Thursday morning although lingering delays in NJ Transit service was still seen.

NJ Transit said that most of its service returned to normal just in time for the afternoon rush hour Thursday, with the exception of some residual delays. In the afternoon, riders on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast Line and Raritan Valley Line faced up to a 30-minute wait due to persistent signal issues at Amtrak Dock Bridge — adding another layer to passengers’ frustration.

Travelers Tuesday morning faced similar delays due to another downed wire, marking three straight days of snarled service.

Murphy called these delays “incredibly disruptive to the lives of New Jerseyans” before pointing out the series of infrastructure failures Amtrak has experienced in the span of mere days and the exorbitant amount of money NJ Transit pays Amtrak in order to use and maintain a portion of its track.

“Yesterday’s incident was the third infrastructure failure in two days from Amtrak, cutting off power on the tracks, that NJ TRANSIT, as a tenant, pays Amtrak over $100 million to maintain between New York City and Trenton, ” the governor’s letter read.

“As Governor of New Jersey, I refuse to accept these Amtrak infrastructure challenges as an inevitable part of operating integrated mass transit systems. We can and must do better for our customers and constituents.”

Murphy went on to say that Amtrak “must make immediate short-term and long-term investments to address infrastructure vulnerabilities and updated emergency management plans to provide more robust alternate modes of transportation when equipment failure occurs…it’s clear there is much work to be done as these issues are becoming more frequent and more impactful.”

Murphy’s letter ends with him asking for a meeting between Amtrak and his administration to work on an emergency management plan. The governor called for state representatives to meet with Amtrak in the next coming days to discuss solutions to infrastructure issues and persistent disruptions. 

Amtrak Executive Vice President of Service Delivery & Operations Gery Williams responded to Murphy’s letter in a statement that read: “We apologize to Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT customers for the impact yesterday’s wire issues had on their travel. We hold ourselves to a high standard in terms of the reliable service we provide our customers and the customers of our commuter partners, who deserve better than their travel experience yesterday evening. Governor Murphy is one of the country’s biggest champions of rail, and we appreciate his support and commitment to everything from the Gateway Program to advocating for New Jersey’s residents and visitors who were disrupted by yesterday’s incident. An investigation continues into the cause of yesterday’s incident. We will implement any changes to avoid a similar incident like yesterday from happening again.”

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