Christie calls for hearings after Amtrak takes blame for NJ Transit derailment

Train Derailment
New Jersey Transit commuters rush to catch a train in Hoboken. A derailment Monday has led to clogged this week.

Amtrak acknowledged Thursday that problems with its tracks apparently caused the derailment of a NJ Transit train at New York City’s Penn Station this week, delaying commuters across the region.

NJ Transit said that it expected full service to be restored Friday morning to and from New York following Monday’s derailment, which “appears to have been caused by a wide-gauge condition due to defective wood ties,” Amtrak’s president and CEO, Wick Moorman, said in a statement. Problems with the Penn Station tracks were also “a cause” of the March 24 derailment of an Acela train, Moorman said. He said the agency was “working around the clock” to repair and evaluate the tracks.

Gov. Christie criticized Amtrak on Wednesday, notifying the agency’s chairman in a letter that he had directed NJ Transit to stop paying Amtrak maintenance fees “until there has been a thorough and independent examination” of its tracks and equipment on the Northeast Corridor, along with “unqualified verification that the assets are in a state of good repair.”

In the letter, posted by the New York Times, Christie also said he had asked the state’s attorney general to consider “appropriate legal action” to recover money paid by NJ Transit to Amtrak under an agreement to help maintain Northeast Corridor assets.

After Amtrak’s announcement Thursday, Christie called on New Jersey’s congressional delegation to hold hearings on the agency’s “recent failures” and said its admission “proves a valuable lesson.”

“The rush to judgment by candidates, politicians and the media to mislead the public with prejudicial conclusions to drive their partisan or personal agendas is irresponsible,” the governor said in a statement.

While Christie didn’t elaborate, NJ Transit has been a target of commuter criticism and safety questions, including after last year’s deadly crash in Hoboken. The Associated Press reported in October that the agency’s commuter railroad — the second-largest nationally — has had more accidents and paid more in fines for safety violations than any other commuter railroad in the country over the last five years.

The governor has also been accused of neglecting transit needs, continuing to receive criticism for his 2010 decision to scrap the so-called ARC tunnel that would have expanded capacity between New Jersey and New York.