Amtrak prioritizes Penn Station improvement initiatives

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor
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Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman detailed several initiatives aimed at strengthening the infrastructure and operations at New York Penn Station.

The initiatives include four bullet points that include an infrastructure renewal program; a passenger concourse coordination review; development of a joint station concourse operations center and safety and security improvements.

Moorman pointed out that the tracks in service at Penn Station were built in the 1970s when the railroad handled only half the number of trains and a third of the customers as it does today. Amtrak has scheduled renewal work to occur at the station during the next several years, but Moorman said that is not longer possible.

“We can’t wait that long. This work needs to be done now,” said Moorman.

“After only a short time here at Amtrak it has become apparent to me that we need to accelerate major renewal work in New York Penn Station,” said Moorman, who became CEO in September 2016. “Using our limited resources, we have made this renewal project a priority to ensure the continuity of travel in the region. Without these improvements, Amtrak, [New Jersey] Transit and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) could continue to see major disruptions, which could also have an impact on passenger safety.”

New York Penn Station Infrastructure Renewal Program
Amtrak will undertake a series of major track and switch renewal projects in Penn Station, beginning with the western portion of the station area. Work planned for the next several years will be compressed to a May 2017 to Fall 2017 timeframe. Amtrak notes that it has maintained and repaired this aging infrastructure, some of which dates to the 1970s, but full replacement is now required to improve its reliability. In addition to track and switch projects, further renewal work of various station tracks will be undertaken through approximately June 2018, with a majority of that work done on weekends.

New York Penn Station Passenger Concourse Coordination Review
Amtrak has commissioned former Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO and Chairman Tom Prendergast to independently review the interaction, coordination and collaboration between the railroads’ various passenger concourses within Penn Station. Amtrak is the owner of Penn Station, but passenger concourse operations and control of various areas within the station are managed individually by Amtrak, LIRR and NJ Transit. Prendergast will review these relationships and develop recommendations on how the three railroads, working with other relevant parties, can improve the passenger experience, signage and wayfinding, video and communications and incident response across the entire station.

Development of a Joint Station Concourse Operations Center
Amtrak is proposing that the three railroads serving Penn Station develop a joint station concourse operations center that brings together the managers of the various Penn Station concourses and technology to strengthen coordination, enhance the passenger experience and improve joint responses to disruptions, incidents and other events that occur anywhere in the station. While the tracks and other railroad operational elements of Penn Station are controlled at the Penn Station Control Center facility, which brings together all three railroads in various capacities, management of the station’s passenger concourses lacks a similarly integrated facility.

Safety and Security
In the next several weeks, Amtrak will assemble a task force with its partner railroads, first responders, law enforcement and other stakeholders to review protocols relating to disabled trains and ensure that adequate procedures are documented, trained and exercised. The task force will also examine the need for additional equipment and technology and review the functions of personnel during an incident to ensure that existing protocols are comprehensive and appropriate. The findings of the task force will be used to help inform the Penn Station Passenger Concourse Coordination Review efforts.

Additionally, Amtrak is creating a mobile response team to address potential station overcrowding during peak periods, further equipping its New York Division Amtrak Police Department (APD) officers with multi-band interoperable radios to improve intra-agency communication and is already in the process of updating its Video Surveillance and Access Control System design for Penn Station platforms, tunnels and ventilation shafts.

Moorman added, “We at Amtrak understand the steps that must be taken to ensure a safe and reliable railway and will be working throughout the summer and beyond to make the required improvements. We will be collaborating with our partners at NJ Transit and the LIRR to plan this work in order to minimize disruptions and inconvenience for our customers who rely on us for service.”

Categories: Ballast, Ties, Rail, C&S, Commuter/Regional, Intercity, ON Track Maintenance, Safety/Training, Yards & Terminals