Christie halts Amtrak payments, calls for inspection


08 April, 2017

On Monday, an NJ Transit train traveling at a low speed derailed at Penn Station in NY, shutting down eight of the station's 21 tracks. Amtrak officials said Thursday that the ties were inspected days before the derailment and deemed to be in need of replacement eventually, but didn't appear to pose an imminent threat.

"Having two derailments in just over a week is unacceptable, and our customers are bearing the brunt", Santoro said.

Amtrak owns the station and the tracks and leases access to NJ Transit and Long Island Railroad.

Moorman said he visited the site of the fix work Thursday morning and is "confident that we will have full service for rush hour tomorrow morning".

"The recurring derailments at (Penn Station) indicate Amtrak does not take its obligations seriously and has not effectively applied NJ Transit's considerable payments to the proper maintenance of these assets, which are absolutely essential to its customers", Christie said in his letter.

Amtrak officials - and the region's commuting public - are banking on a large-scale, $20 billion-plus project, called Gateway, that would build a new tunnel and expand Penn Station.

"While safety is our number one priority we also want to prevent service disruptions - similar to those that recently occurred at the station due to train derailments - which impact commuters along the busiest passenger rail corridors in the nation", Willis said.

On Thursday, Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman said he understands Christie is frustrated but added that withholding money "is not going to solve any of the problems".

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

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It was the second derailment at Penn Station in less than two weeks.

"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.

Penn Station is stymied by too few tracks and platforms, and limited by its major feeder, a century-old Hudson River tunnel that is a fragile choke point for trains between Boston and Washington.

After a recent train derailment, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has chosen to halt payments to Amtrak.

The first incident was March 24, when an Amtrak Acela train with about 250 people aboard derailed at a slow speed and sideswiped a New Jersey Transit train, causing minor injuries.

While Christie didn't elaborate, NJ Transit has been a target of commuter criticism and safety questions, including after last year's deadly crash in Hoboken.

On Wednesday, the governor ordered NJ Transit, which paid Amtrak $62 million for investments in the Northeast Corridor, to cease making payments to Amtrak until an independent investigation on the tracks is completed.

There is still no timeline for a full service restoration.

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