bratkinson wrote:In two words: Deferred Maintenance.
No. Not deferred maintenance or diverting to other projects. The State or NY and NJ pay Amtrak for maintenance of Penn Station. This is well funded in advance. NJ is withholding payment to Amtrak and will be suing and I expect NY to follow as well. I commend Governor Christie on this issue. A tie maintenance project for Penn Station tracks would not been a long project. LiRR has done concrete ties and rail resurfacing or replacement projects as well as inspection. Apparently the Federal Railroad Authority has found numerous track defects as well.
There's always been bigger fish to fry when it comes to track and overhead maintenance in the NEC. Like any big corporation, and even state & local governments, if they 'save' some dollars doing less maintenance this year and usually divert the funds to other projects, management comes out looking good. Sometimes the maintenance dollars get spent for improvements that are more for public relations gains than actual train performance benefits. The unfortunate reality is there just isn't enough money to keep the NEC in good condition from WAS to BOS.
As anyone who 'survived' the Penn Central knows, too much deferred maintenance will come back and bite you big time! REALLY BIG time in the case of the PC! And now, Wick and crew have to face the music and shut down parts of NYP for lots and lots of repairs, affecting everyone that passes through.
The railroad tie which went bad was many years old and went through extremely bad weather conditions. It was known way in advance this would be disasterous. We are fortunate there was not an incident with mass casualties.
Amtrak does not need more funding, it already gets congressional subsidies. What we need is less comgressional subsidies and more dedication to the North East corridor which this was. We also need Amtrak to look for more creative ways to improve profit margins. The new Amtrak diner menus are a good start.
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As the previous poster mentioned, NYP is over 100 years old and beyond capacity. Allow me to make a comparison.
If anyone is familiar with the 85 year old Pulaski Skyway
in New Jersey, you know that trucks have been prohibited on it for almost 83 of those years. They credit the fact that trucks are banned to why this structurally deficient and obsolete bridge (which is being rebuilt) is still standing. Knowing this bridge is functionally obsolete and being used past its intended usage, no one would be crazy enough to to allow trucks to pummel the infrastructure, create more congestion and rob it of additional life expectancy.
In my (admittedly unscientific) opinion, this is what is happening in the NEC. The constant use and introduction of additional trains on to an outdated infrastructure is robbing years off the components.. Yet, there is an effort to put more stress on the system.
The thing that people leave out when they claim it's hard to find fault about NJT's funding is the simple fact that NJT continues to STUFF more trains into an outdated, archaic infrastructure. Then, they have to nerve to be surprised that things are going wrong.
Before the Midtown Direct service began, there were 239 movements over Portal bridge. The original count for the Midtown Directs pinned the number at 42. These days, there are over 100 Midtown Directs (including the deadheads that aren't in the public timetable.) As if that isn't bad enough, now they are stuffing the Raritan trains into the same area that is in trouble.
And everyone is surprised? If you had an old fuse box, and you keep plugging additional, energy consuming appliances into various outlets, what do you think is going to happen, particularly in the summer when energy consumption is at its peak? How much of a draw is placed on the catenary each time a NJT train starts and stops at a station? How much wear and tear is NJT putting on the contact (trolley) wires compared to Amtrak?
It is the very definition of insanity that NJT keeps pushing more trains into this extremely congested area and expects everything to be on point. The 100+ million dollars they pay is likely a drop in the bucket compared to what they use. Think of all of the interlockings(and their associated costs) that could go bye-bye if NJT didn't ram so many trains onto the NEC. Think of all of the tracks that could disappear.
NJT has stuffed the infrastructure to the point that their is no flexibility during peak times and increasingly, during off peak times. The easiest way to actually fix the issues on the NEC is to alleviate some of the strain. If some of the Midclowns were diverted back to Hoboken, and the Raritan Valley trains weren't using the old and strained catenary system, you'd have extra resources available.
Sure, you're running the Raritan trains off peak, but you are closing the window of opportunity to manipulate and straighten out your territory if (and by that I mean "when") something ultimately occurs. It may not sound like much, but four trains an hour can really impact things when there is a disruption or a scheduled outage. That train is hogging a track that could be used for something else. It take "x" amount of minutes for this additional train to clear if you want to reverse traffic. It is one more train that has to go by before maintenance can begin. It is one more train stopped at Portal. More importantly, it is one more train that wasn't previously attached to the catenary and is now trying to draw power to climb a 2% grade to get in one of the most congested terminals on the NEC.
What kills is me is you state that the various agencies pay for maintenance as if that is the end all, be all. Sure, they pay for it but as things age, maintenance becomes more expensive. Maintenance is no longer enough. As BlendedBrake mentioned, it is time for replacement and/or renewal. Maintenance and repair does not stop the aging process. You can replace all of the ties in the next year. That doesn't stop the insulators from continuing to age.
LIRR isn't exactly an angel in this process. They have added more trains and deadhead since they can no longer contain their fleet in West Side Yard. Their parent agency also wants to bring in Metro-North trains...without diverting trains to GCT via East Side Access. Where is the time for maintenance and more importantly, renewal and replacement? Indeed, LIRR demanded Amtrak NOT perform inspections that would interfere with their operations.
Who remembers this gem?
NEW YORK — Long Island Rail Road officials are asking Amtrak to review the way it handles track repairs after work forced the commuter line to cancel dozens of trains Monday, the Wall Street Journal has reported. LIRR uses Amtrak’s line from Penn Station to Queens, and work Amtrak calls “emergency repairs” led to the cancellations.
Amtrak said a maintenance crew found problems with a rail joint in a tunnel beneath the East River Monday afternoon. The timing was poor, as passengers were crowding trains to head home for Passover, a Jewish holiday. Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said it took workers time to get the necessary supplies and tools after finding the defect around 2 p.m. “In our estimation, we did what we needed to do to repair the joints,” he said.
LIRR called on Amtrak to do a “full review” of the incident. Officials there said Amtrak should schedule inspections so they don’t interfere with peak travel times. LIRR also said Amtrak should have staff “readily available” to do emergency repairs.
So, they want them to not find a broken rail, so a train can derail in the East River tunnel again? The message should have been "There was some inconvenience, but we're glad that the defect was corrected." Additionally, they want the inspections to run off peak (which 2pm is) which will limit the time repairs can be executed? As it is, repairs can only take replace between 10pm and things are supposed to be CLEARED by 5am. Realistically, you're only giving your crews 4-5 hours a night to get anything done. Funding is not enough if you can't spend the money. I have always thought that NYP is recipe for disaster. There needs to be balance between NYP, Newark, Hoboken, Path, Hunterspoint, Jamaica, the Subways and the Ferries. Spread out and create breathing room.
There is no doubt that Amtrak has deferred maintenance. It has a multi billion dollar backlog which shouldn''t surprise anyone. Most railroads have backlogs because maintenance also can mean replacement. It is typical for slow speed terminals and yards to receive the biggest deferral since they are slow speed areas. In NYP's case, add a relentless flow of traffic, funding problems and Amtrak's broke status to the mix. That is my main problem with Amtrak in this mess. From my perspective, Amtrak's main flaw is their failure to say ENOUGH. They should tell NJT to keep their money for the additional slots and say we can not handle any more trains into or out of Penn Station or across the high line. Easing the load will reduce the congestion and stress on the system.
But, we all know that is not going to happen.
This won't happen though. NJT will wave a few hundred dollars in Amtrak's face or finance an insulator in exchange for 19 more slots. Amtrak will take it and every one will wonder why trains are delayed.