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Amtrak power outage "an unmitigated disaster," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says. Here's what started it.

Amtrak power outage "an unmitigated disaster," Gov. Murphy says
Amtrak power outage "an unmitigated disaster," Gov. Murphy says 02:02

NEW JERSEY -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called the power outage that brought Amtrak and NJ Transit to a halt for hours "an unmitigated disaster" in a harsh letter to Amtrak's chairman Thursday, as rail delays continued.

Service was suspended between New York City and Philadelphia due to overhead wires falling on the tracks in Kearny at the start of the Wednesday evening rush hour.

"Yesterday evening, a complete system failure caused an unmitigated disaster during the rush hour commute for thousands of passengers in the NJ-NY region. Some commuters were stranded for hours at New York Penn Station, while some passengers were stuck on trains in between tracks for over three hours," Murphy wrote. "It made it impossible for commuters to get home on time. And it caused a domino effect of delays and cancellations, on both rail and bus, stranding commuters as far away as Washington, D.C."  

A nightmare for commuters

It was a nightmare for commuters, even when some service resumed after more than four hours once crews restored a single track between New York City and Newark.

"It was about 11:00 at night and [my husband] was trying to get home after being out after work and had to kind of figure out how to get to Newark from the PATH," said Christie Frazer, from Westfield, New Jersey. 

Murphy said it was Amtrak's third infrastructure failure in two days and noted NJ Transit pays the railroad over $100 million to maintain power on the tracks between New York City and Trenton.

"I believe Amtrak needs to make immediate short-term and long-term investments to address infrastructure vulnerabilities and updated emergency management plans to provide more robust alternate modes of transportation when equipment failure occurs," Murphy's letter said. 

Murphy sent a copy of the letter to U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.     

Amtrak declined our request for an interview.

Rail delays continued Thursday

Amtrak warned of residual delays Thursday along the Northeast Corridor.

NJ Transit also warned riders to expect cancelations and delays "resulting from crew availability and equipment that was out of position" due to the overhead wire issues.

With fare hikes , riders said NJ Transit needs to make improvements.

"There are some delays, but the infrastructure is old," said Eric Korins. 

"It would definitely be easier if we did not have to deal with that and that things would be on time," another rider said. 

Bill would create an advocate for NJ Transit riders

New Jersey State Sen. Raj Mukherji, a Democrat from Hudson County, proposed a bill to create an independent advocate for NJ Transit riders, accountable to the governor and legislature.

"It would give them authority to actually conduct the investigation and the inquiries to do their job on behalf of commuters," said Mukherji. 

The bill must go through a budget committee before it can come up for a vote in the New Jersey Legislature. 

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