NJ Transit customers are being told to expect delays to service in and out of New York's Penn Station indefinitely; as a minimum, trains might be delayed 15 minutes on weekdays and 30 minutes on weekends. The predicted delays are to allow Amtrak to make repairs to tracks leading to the station; defects and deferred maintenance in the tracks have been blamed for several recent incidents in which trains derailed. And it may get worse, according to reporting by Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Patric McGeehan for the New York Times (April 26): Amtrak says it's time to "bite the bullet" and take tracks out of service for days or weeks to fix the underlying problems. The story is also reported by Larry Higgs for NJ Advance Media and appears in the Star-Ledger (April 26).  What this would mean for commuters is still unclear; details would have to be worked out between Amtrak and NJ Transit and the Long Island Rail Road, the other "tenant" at the busy station. But any reduction in track capacity has usually resulted in train cancellations and, for NJ Transit, usually diversion of Midtown Direct service to NJT's Hoboken terminal, itself still under repair after a train crashed in September.

On April 27, Amtrak started to flesh out its repair plans for a "series of major track and switch renewal projects," which might require taking up to four station tracks out of service at a time. The story was reported by multiple sources, including in the New York Times (April 28)by Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Patrick McGeehan, and by Larry Higgs for NJ Advance Media (and published in the Star-Leger on April 28), as well as by the Gannett papers. Amtrak said the repairs, costing tens of millions of dollars, would come by reducing "funds earmarked for technological upgrades," raising fears that Amtrak might be fixing one set of problems and making others worse. And Amtrak made it clear that some of the repair work would have to be done on weekdays, impacting the ability of trains to use the station, particularly in peak commuting hours. Amtrak pledged to coordinate its plans with the major users of the station, NJ Transit and the Long Island Rail Road.

While Amtrak inspects its track and identifies candidates for repair, it has reduced the train speed limit within the station area to 10 mph, down from the usual 15 mph. This has contributed to delays experienced by riders.

And these delays are due to what can be predicted, not to unusual events, which are becoming almost constant. Tuesday, April 25 brought delays in the morning and evening rush hours -- from separate events.  A stuck Amtrak train caused delays in the morning; in the evening, Amtrak power problems between Penn Station and Queens caused serious problems for both NJ Transit and the Long Island Rail Road, with thousands of riders clogging the station. A visit by this reporter at about 6 pm found only one NJT train boarding, and all others posted as "Delayed." Crowding in the NJT concourses was intense, and the escalators to and from the Long Island Rail Road levels were jammed; one report said that LIRR had to restrict access to its part of the station to control the crowds. By late evening things were back to more or less normal. On April 27, operations seemed more or less normal, at least for NJ Transit; this reporter rode an NJT train from Montclair due in New York Penn about nine a.m.; while the train moved slowly through the tunnels and was halted for a few minutes, it was only a few minutes late in arrival, nothing like the 15 minutes NJT said riders could expect.