NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Fed up NJ TRANSIT riders have a message for Gov. Phil Murphy after a train derailment Thursday night.
“Phil Murphy, you campaigned on this,” a woman said.
“He hasn’t done anything. I challenge him to take the train one day a week,” said commuter Chris Millan.
Murphy expressed sympathy and frustration about the derailment at a news conference Friday.
“This derailment last night that somebody called a ‘minor’ derailment. I was thinking to myself that if I were on that train it wouldn’t be minor to me,” Murphy said. “So if people are upset about it, I don’t blame them. Obviously safety is our first priority and otherwise delivering on-time, acceptable service, and this incident violates all of the above.”
Murphy defended his record thus far.
“I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I do want to reiterate we’re almost nine months in. We inherited a much bigger mess than I ever thought, and we thought it was a big mess,” Murphy said.
Murphy said in the time he’s been in office the effort to install the positive safety control system has gone from 13 percent to completion to more than 60 percent. He also cited a dip in the engineer pool as a factor in service.
“We knew it was a challenge. It was underfunded. The funding was cut by 90 percent at one point. So we put the money in. We put the leadership in. We’re going to get positive train control done – by the way, the deadline is December 31. We are hiring more engineers, trying to find creative ways to train them faster and still make sure they’re at the level of competence that we need,” Murphy said. “We desperately need a new tunnel under the Hudson. I’m begging President Trump and his administration to please come to that. It’s bipartisan supported. Literally I don’t know one Republican or Democrat who doesn’t support this. We desperately need it. And you have incidents like last night that remind you of all of the above.”
Murphy said an audit of NJ TRANSIT will be unveiled next Tuesday.
A train on the Montclair Boonton line derailed around 6:20 p.m. Thursday when the wheels on the first car came off the track shortly after leaving Penn Station.
“While the exact cause of yesterday’s derailment near PSNY remains under investigation, NJ TRANSIT is looking into the possibility that an equipment issue with the train may have been a contributing factor in this incident,” the agency said in a statement. “Our crews will be thoroughly examining the car and working with the FRA to come to a final conclusion, which we can use to prevent similar type incidents from occurring in the future.”
“It was a shaky movement. You could feel the actual car derailing off the rails,” passenger Latief Murphy said. “Everyone was scared. I mean, one person had a panic attack.”
“We’re in the front car, and it just felt like (noise),” said passenger Megan Dinneen.
Approximately 1,000 people were on board at the time.
“I’ve been stuck on the train for two hours,” one woman said.
“Look around, I mean everybody’s frustrated,” said a man.
“They need to be transparent, let people know what happened. It’s just unbelievable,” another man added.
Meanwhile, Penn Station was packed with people waiting, and the speaker system wasn’t working properly.
In Hoboken, the PATH station was beyond capacity as people tried to figure out how to get home.
After nearly two hours, the derailed train was finally towed back to Penn Station.