The Amtrak passenger rail system’s preliminary plan for making vital repairs at New York City’s busy Penn Station will disrupt train service across a region that extends to Washington, D.C., and Harrisburg, Pa., as well as affecting commuters in New York and New Jersey.
Amtrak said its service changes will take effect July 10 and extend to Sept. 1, and reports say more changes will come to regional rail service as the other users of Penn Station tracks – Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit – implement their own schedule alterations as a result.
NJ Transit told its customers that while travel patterns for many would not change, “delays on all rail lines, except for the Atlantic City Rail line, are inevitable.” It announced a plan to divert some trains and to give customers hefty fare discounts.
The summer project will take three of Penn Station’s 21 tracks out of service, and reportedly reduce Amtrak’s use of the station by 40 percent.
“Amtrak is accelerating its work to improve conditions and reliability of the tracks at Penn Station during the summer,” said Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman. “While we regret that this work requires some reduction in train service and disruption to passengers over the summer months, we believe it will ultimately be worth the investment in terms of increased reliability of passenger rail travel.”
Moorman added that “while Amtrak’s own service at Penn Station will face the largest impact of the three railroads in terms of proportional reductions in train service during the work period, we will use all the tools we can, such as lengthening trains, to continue to provide capacity for our intercity travelers going to or from New York.”
While Amtrak will make no changes to its higher-speed Acela service, once the repair schedule kicks in it will cancel three daily round-trip Northeast Regional trains between New York and Washington. Three of its daily round-trip Keystone trains from Harrisburg that normally go into Penn Station will end at Philadelphia instead while another will end at Newark, N.J.
Even long-distance service will be affected, as Amtrak will alter its Crescent service from New Orleans to terminate at Washington instead of moving on to New York. And Amtrak indicated that changes will also come to its Empire route that operates between New York City and Niagara Falls.
“Amtrak’s reservation systems have been updated to reflect these schedule changes,” it said, “and any passenger already booked on a train that has been canceled or altered will be contacted and accommodated on other scheduled services.”
Amtrak explained that its crews are already making various repairs in an aging facility that handles more than 1,300 daily train movements and has seen significant volume growth in recent years. The original underground track network dates from 1910; Amtrak acquired it in 1976.
But it will make the summer repairs in an area that Moorman said is responsible for many recent delays of various trains, the “A Interlocking.”
Amtrak said that section “serves as the critical sorting mechanism routing incoming and outgoing trains that enter and exit Penn Station from the Hudson River tunnel and the LIRR’s West Side Yard to the various station tracks and platforms.” The work there will include total track and switch replacement.
Amtrak passenger rail system'