Headaches Persist Following Monday Derailment At Penn Station, Other Issues

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A minor derailment at Penn Station involving an NJ TRANSIT train Monday and other rail issues caused major problems Tuesday, for commuters and it’s unclear when service will be back to normal.

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Commuters could be in for days of delays at Penn Station. Amtrak’s Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek had no answers Tuesday afternoon on when repairs would be completed.

“Any guestimate I’d have right now is too… is premature and is likely to be wrong until I have more information,” he told CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer.

Earlier in the day, frustrated Long Island Rail Road, NJ TRANSIT and PATH riders faced countless delays, cancellations and overcrowded trains as they tried to find a way into work.

“It’s horrible, it’s horrible,” commuter Terrence Wilson told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “Two-hour delays, you have to reroute.”

“A lot us here, we’ve got to go to work, we start work early,” another man said.

NJ TRANSIT’s Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Lines were operating on a holiday schedule throughout the morning rush. According to Nancy Schneider of NJ TRANSIT, there were extra buses at some of the park-and-rides to accommodate commuters, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.

“Midtown Directs are still going to Hoboken and from there, PATH service is cross-honoring our rail customers. We do have NJT buses in Hoboken too,” Schneider said.

The LIRR canceled 10 trains to Penn Station Tuesday morning and terminated four others at Jamaica in Queens. It also said that schedules were disrupted by a broken rail in Queens and a NJ TRANSIT train stuck in a tunnel while headed to a storage yard.

The ride home wasn’t any better; 26 LIRR trains out of Penn Station were canceled or diverted for the evening rush hour as Amtrak continued to make repairs to the damaged track. Ten trains were canceled for Wednesday morning’s commute.

Amtrak owns and operates the tracks at Penn Station — including those used by NJ TRANSIT and LIRR.

“Amtrak has advised us that the repairs to damaged track will take a matter of days, unfortunately,” said LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski. “Because of that, we must continue to operate on a reduced schedule until all repairs have been safely completed. We have offered support and any assistance they need to help speed these repairs.”

Here is the complete list of changes.

Meanwhile, some commuters took to Twitter Tuesday morning describing crowded conditions on trains.

An NJ TRANSIT train was pulling into Penn Station Monday morning when it derailed, causing minor injuries to five people and disrupting service throughout the day.

“It was literally like an amusement ride,” commuter Michael Biondo said Monday. “Bodies everywhere piling up.”

Cell phone video showed the problem train still in the tunnel into the evening Monday.

“The condition at Penn affects everybody,” said acting MTA Chairman Fernando Ferrer. “We all dwell in that same place and travel over that same track.”

Commuters are especially fed up because Monday’s incident was the second train to derail at Penn Station in the last two weeks. Most commuters said they’ve had it.

“We just had a derailment and now another derailment? They should get it together,” said commuter Teresa Winfield. “This is crazy we can’t get to work.”

“Clearly, they need to invest more in infrastructure,” said rider Miranda Hansen-Hunt.

“I just keep asking, what are we paying for?” another woman said.

While rail officials urged riders to be patient with the delays, even the planned work-arounds were problematic.

In Hoboken where NJ TRANSIT Midtown Direct trains were diverted for PATH service, customers were greeted with long lines and packed cars because of rail issues there.

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An unrelated track condition suspended PATH service for a time on the Hoboken to 33rd Street line and caused delays on other lines.

“I get to Hoboken and I can’t even get to the PATH platform,” one man told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “There were actually a couple of NJ TRANSIT officers standing at the top of the stairs not letting people down onto the platform because it was so packed. It was a complete madhouse, it was just everybody for themselves.”

State Senator Elaine Phillips said the train derailments have a domino effect, from folks being late to work to people not being able to pick up their children on time for day care, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.

Now, Phillips is calling for Amtrak to conduct an investigation.

“I do believe it’s their responsibility, that they need to do a review of their operational management here, and the infrastructure,” Phillips said.

State Senator Todd Kaminsky has called on the MTA to take control of Penn Station.

“Commuters deserve reliable public transportation, and Amtrak has proven that they cannot deliver,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Steve Santoro told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes that he could not give a definitive time when repairs will be made and service will return to normal.

“Clearly we have sympathy for the riders enduring what they’re enduring,” he said Tuesday. 

Amtrak’s Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek also said he could not give an estimate of when the repairs will be finished, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.

“We apologize for any inconvenience we’ve caused anyway,” he said.

Naparstek said a switching machine is badly damaged and eight tracks out of the 21 at Penn Station will stay out of service.

The MTA says Amtrak told them LIRR riders will be significantly impacted for the next several days. Spokesperson Beth DeFalco echoed Santoro’s sympathies.

“We share their frustration certainly especially when it’s not our tracks we’re controlling,” she said. “The fare hikes in this particular case would have nothing to do with tracks we don’t control anyhow.”

The PATH will be increasing the number of trains on its Hoboken-33rd Street and Journal Square-33rd Street lines for Tuesday afternoon’s rush to accommodate higher ridership demand and will continue cross-honoring NJ TRANSIT customers through the evening commute.

NJ TRANSIT says they will be adding additional train service for the holiday schedule for the Wednesday morning and afternoon peak periods on the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Lines operating into Penn Station.

Whether the trains will be able to run anywhere close to on-time is dependent on Amtrak, which has priority, according to NJ TRANSIT’s Nancy Sneider.

“Amtrak does own, operate and maintain that northeast quarter, but of course we are always in communication with them,” she said.

Amtrak will be operating on a modified schedule on the Northeast Corridor through at least Thursday.

LIRR says they are cancelling 10 inbound trains to Penn Station, terminating three trains at the Jamaica station, and diverting one train to Hunterspoint Avenue in Queens during the Wednesday morning rush.

CBS2 reached out to Governor Chris Christie’s office regarding the issues at Penn Station. They referred all questions to NJ TRANSIT. When pressed for comment, the MTA responded on behalf of Governor Cuomo’s office.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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