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NJ Transit, Amtrak disagree over who's to blame for delays
Sunday, December 31, 2006
By DAVID A. MICHAELS
New Jersey travelers suffered through 157 hours of delays in two years because Amtrak routinely holds or slows down NJ Transit trains to move its own trains ahead, records show.
NJ Transit logs 55 million passenger trips on 115,000 trains each year that travel on the Northeast Corridor -- the nation's busiest passenger railroad -- including shuttling North Jersey commuters from Secaucus to Manhattan. Amtrak, by contrast, runs about 33,000 trains a year on the corridor, and recorded 4.5 million trips between New York and Washington, D.C., in 2006.
But Amtrak controls the tracks, and that means it can give preference to its trains when they are running late and find themselves behind a slower local train.
NJ Transit and Amtrak disagree about how often such delays occur, and Amtrak officials even say they sometimes hold back their own trains for the benefit of NJ Transit. NJ Transit's figures, however, show that hundreds of commuter trains are detained every year to allow Amtrak to pass them on the corridor.
In most cases, the delays are marginal -- about 12 minutes or less. Occasionally, however, the practice can cause significant backups, according to a Record analysis of NJ Transit's train-delay database.