Heatwave causes infrastructure failures at busiest US transit hub

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Major delays strike busiest US transit hub amid heatwave and infrastructure issues.

NEW YORK, June 23: Tens of thousands of commuters in the Northeast experienced agony and extensive delays this week due to extreme heat and strained infrastructure on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. Rail service between New Jersey and New York’s Penn Station faced suspensions on Thursday evening and Friday morning, with New Jersey Transit attributing the disruptions to “AMTRAK overhead wire issues.”

While investigations into the root causes of the disruptions are ongoing, the incidents occurred during some of the hottest days of the year, exacerbating commutes amidst an early-summer heatwave. Amtrak President Roger Harris acknowledged the challenges, citing a catastrophic failure of a circuit breaker on Thursday, coinciding with high temperatures and a nearby brush fire.

Collaborative efforts between Amtrak and New Jersey Transit are underway to understand and address the recent disruptions. Both rail services share a century-old tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey, serving as the only passenger rail connection between Manhattan and the Northeast Corridor.

Experts noted that extreme heat has the potential to strain infrastructure, with rising temperatures causing stress on rails and wires. Consequently, trains were forced to operate at slower speeds, leading to hour-long delays for some services.

Despite efforts to manage the situation, commuters faced significant disruptions, with power and overhead wire issues contributing to most delays in the New York City metropolitan area. Mona Hemmati, a climate physics specialist, warned that future mass transit delays could be anticipated due to climate change-induced extreme weather.

New Jersey Transit acknowledged the impact on customers, expressing frustration over the unacceptable service disruptions. With 700 trains operating each weekday between Philadelphia and New Haven, the majority of disruptions occurred between New Jersey and New York.

Many commuters voiced their concerns, expressing hope for improvement in the situation. Roma Torre, a New Jersey resident, lamented the challenges faced during her commute, emphasizing infrastructure problems. Tina Palazzo, another commuter, described her commute as horrific, highlighting the lack of communication amidst the chaos.

As the region grapples with ongoing challenges, commuters remain hopeful for swift resolutions to ensure smoother and safer journeys in the future.

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