UPDATE - N.Y. Malfunction Delays Train for Hours

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N.Y. malfunction delays Providence train for hours

By RICHARD C. DUJARDIN Journal Staff Writer

Hundreds of Amtrak passengers, including an estimated 75 people bound for Providence, had to stay on a train five hours longer than they anticipated Saturday night after losing power on New York's Pelham Bay Bridge.

According to passengers, the train came to an unscheduled stop about 20 minutes after leaving Penn Station, when one or more of the electrical wires broke and fell onto the tracks as the train was heading over water.

Amtrak spokeswoman Karen Duff said investigators are looking into the possibility that one of the bolts holding up the wires had given way because it had become too worn.

"Normally, in a situation where a train is going to be delayed like this a bus would be sent to pick up the passengers," Duff said. "But we couldn't do that because of where the train was."

The train, which pulled out of Penn Station at 6:36 p.m. had been due into Providence at 10:37 p.m. Instead, it pulled into Providence at 3:35 a.m. yesterday, five hours later than scheduled.

According to Duff, seven other Amtrak trains experienced delays of one to two hours because of the electrical problems on the bridge.

They included three trains en route from Boston to Washington and one en route from Boston to Newport News. Three of those trains were able to delay their departure from stations along the route, while a fourth deposited its passengers at New Rochelle, enabling them to transfer onto a Metro North commuter train heading into Manhattan.

The northbound trains experiencing delays included trains that were heading from Washington to Springfield, Mass., and from Newport News to Boston. There was also a mail train without passengers.

Duff said that under a new "satisfaction guaranteed" program launched July 4, Amtrak has been promising a "safe, comfortable and enjoyable" travel experience to everyone riding its lines. Under that policy, she said, all of the guests who were inconvenienced will be entittled to a Service Guarantee Certificate, entitling them to equivalent free travel in the future, which they can get by calling Amtrak.

"Let's face it," said Duff. "Mechanical problems are sometimes going to happen. And when it happens we will try to make people as comfortable as possible."

In Saturday night's incident, train officials visited the stricken train as soon as they could to help with the distribution of free food and drinks, Duff said.

Since there was no electricity on the train, passengers were without light once the daylight had faded. Public phones were also knocked out by the outage, though more than a few passengers had cell phones that allowed them to stay in touch with the outside world.

Dunn said that to get the train moving again Amtrak first had to clear away the downed lines and then get one of its old diesel locomotives, which were in regular use before the route became electrified.


-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), July 10, 2000

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