Christie, Amtrak Clash Over Cause of Train Stuck in Tunnel

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Amtrak said Monday that it was a NJ Transit mechanical problem that caused a NJ Transit train to get stuck in a Hudson River tunnel for hours last week, not Amtrak’s infrastructure, as Gov. Chris Christie had said earlier in the day. 

In a statement released through spokesman Mike Tolbert on Monday, Amtrak said an issue with the NJ Transit train’s pantograph, or power collector, led to the train becoming disabled in the south tube of the Hudson Tunnel for more than three hours Friday evening with 1,200 passengers aboard.

Amtrak said a rescue locomotive sent to retrieve the train Friday evening was unable to move it initially because of damage to the pantograph. The pantograph was eventually removed and the NJ Transit train moved back to Penn Station using its own power, Amtrak said.

Amtrak’s announcement Monday came shortly after Gov. Christie released a statement through his press secretary blaming the mess on “Amtrak’s failure to adequately maintain its facilities.”

Christie said Amtrak’s “total lack of concern for the commuting public” was also to blame for passengers being “held hostage in an Amtrak tunnel,” waiting hours for EMS personnel to respond.

Amtrak defended its response, saying it was in constant contact with first responders monitoring the conditions on board the train, which was filled with sweaty, frustrated passengers.

Christie released another statement after Amtrak blamed NJ Transit on Monday, blasting the rail company for “two, back-to-back derailments leading up to Friday’s mess.”

Christie said Amtrak is “again trying to divert attention from its failures by suggesting the problem may have been new equipment on the NJ Transit train, before a final determination has been made.”

Calling Amtrak’s conclusion “a diversion,” the governor said the railroad service must work with other rail agencies operating out of Penn Station to avoid future problems.

The loss of power Friday evening caused delays of an hour or more on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. Some LIRR branches also faced delays. 

It happened three weeks after the derailment of an Amtrak train at Penn Station and a week after a New Jersey Transit derailment shut down eight of 21 tracks there and disrupted travel in the region for days.

No injuries were reported in any of the incidents.

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