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MTA blasts Amtrak for ‘unacceptable infrastructure failures’

The MTA’s top two executives on Wednesday sent a letter to the head of Amtrak, criticizing the agency for a series of “unacceptable infrastructure failures” in and around Penn Station, including Monday’s train derailment that continues to snarl LIRR service.

In their letter to Amtrak president and chief executive Charles Moorman, Metropolitan Transportation Authority interim executive director Veronique Hakim and acting chairman Fernando Ferrer wrote that the increasing frequency of infrastructure problems has left “the clear impression that Amtrak is not aggressively maintaining its tracks, switches and related equipment at Penn Station and that repairs have not happened as swiftly as needed.”

“This week’s derailment at New York’s Pennsylvania Station is, unfortunately, the latest in a series of unacceptable infrastructure failures that have impacted and inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of Long Island Rail Road riders who depend on the station each day,” Hakim and Ferrer wrote.

A representative for Amtrak, which owns and maintains Penn, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday morning.

The letter listed four recent problems in and around Penn that caused major delays for the LIRR — Penn’s primary tenant — including a March 6 switching problem during the evening rush; a March 24 derailment of an Amtrak train, which “clipped” a NJ Transit train during the morning rush; Monday morning’s NJ Transit derailment; and an incident involving an NJ Transit train getting stuck in an East River tunnel Tuesday morning when an overhead power cable came down.

The MTA leaders said in their letter that despite receiving assurances from Moorman that the agency is working diligently to restore full service at Penn as soon as possible, “more must be done.”

“The current state of affairs is simply unacceptable,” Hakim and Ferrer wrote. “The pace of repairs following this week’s derailment of a NJ Transit train has had a serious impact on the 230,000 LIRR passengers that go through Penn Station each day and the rippling delays are lasting longer and longer.”

Hakim and Ferrer in the letter requested to meet with Amtrak officials as soon as possible to discuss Amtrak’s maintenance policies going forward and to review the operating agreement used to determine Penn Station track assignments during major disruptions.

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