Amtrak CEO is ‘fully confident’ full train service will return Friday morning
NEW YORK — Amtrak CEO Wick Moorland is "fully confident" that full service will be available at New York Penn Station for NJ Transit commuters on Friday morning.
Offering a personal apology to commuters for this week's delays and cancellations, Moorland said it is Amtrak's job to make sure users can ride "safely and reliably" and they were let down by the railroad.
"We are committed to make sure this doesn't happen again," Moorland said during a news conference in Manhattan.
"We are making sure the infrastructure issues that caused (Monday's) derailment have been fully corrected," Moorland.
NJ Transit has been on a Holiday Schedule since Tuesday with limited service leading to crowded cars and platforms at its stations. Gov. Chris Christie has threatened to withhold funding from Amtrak, which maintains the rails and New York Penn Station.
Moorland said that Monday's derailment was caused by a the "gauge of the rails widening because there were weakened timbers underneath," which crews have been working around-the-clock to repair and make sure there are no other track problems in the area of track 9.
"We had a section where the timbers under the track were somewhat weak. A train came through and it essentially shoved the rails apart and one or two wheels, or however many it was, initially fell in," Moorland said. "We inspect on a regular basis and had notations that these timbers needed to be replaced. We clearly did not have the understanding that there was an imminent failure but we did have that location identified with others and we knew that at some point this year in our maintenance program we would be getting to it. Clearly we got it wrong."
Following a call by NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro and Christie for a full inspection of Penn Station, Moorland said Amtrak launched "joint inspections of the entire New York Penn Station track infrastructure with the Federal Railway Administration to ensure that all aspects of our infrastructure are in good working order." The results will be shared with NJ Transit the LIRR.
Moorland said Amtrak will put together a team to look at all of New York Penn Station's "maintenance issues and deficiencies" and will personally lead a comprehensive review of all of Amtrak's maintenance practices.
The derailment back on March 24, according to Moorland, was caused by a "mismatch between two pieces of rail that allowed wheels to climb one of the rails and derail." He said the station was checked for any other mismatches and none were found. "We have now changed our specifications to ensure we never have a problem like that again.
Moorland said Christie "has a right to be upset" at Amtrak for the derailments and this week's delays, but "withdrawing funding is not going to solve any of the problems."
Christie in a letter directed NJ Transit to “cease making any payments to Amtrak under (NJ Transit’s agreement) until there has been a thorough and independent examination of the tracks, signals, switches and other equipment maintained by Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor and full and unqualified verifications that the assets are in a state-of-good-repair.”
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez's spokesman said the Democrat spoke with Moorland on Thursday morning and continues to monitor the situation.
Thursday's commute continued to be a crowded one. Megan, a rider on the North Jersey Coast Line who boarded at Matawan, said on Twitter that her train had less cars than Wednesday.
“It’s getting worse. Just passed Woodbridge. People can’t get in anymore. No standing room,” Megan said, adding her train was so crowded that people could not breath.
New Jersey Fast Traffic’s Bob Williams said delays at the Hudson River crossings reached 60 minutes without any crashes or incident on Thursday morning indicating heavier volume
NJ Transit said that its senior management was at the New York and Newark stations to speak with passengers as per order of the governor, and will be back out for the afternoon commute.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.