Amtrak will be ready to handle the surge of passengers expected during the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday after completing repairs on equipment damaged by last month’s superstorm, the passenger rail system’s chief said.
A New Jersey power substation damaged by Hurricane Sandy, which struck the east coast on Oct. 29, will be fully functional tomorrow, and the railroad is borrowing equipment from Canada so it will have enough cars for holiday travelers, Joseph Boardman, Amtrak’s chief executive officer, said today in an interview.
“We expect to be able to cover our full service load for Thanksgiving,” Boardman said of the holiday that falls on Nov. 22 this year. “There are a lot of people that want to move.”
The Washington-based railroad had been limited to about 24 trains a day through its two tunnels under the Hudson River because a power station was damaged by the storm, Boardman said. The full complement of 38 trains should be running tomorrow, he said. Those tunnels connect New York’s Pennsylvania Station to locations to the south and west.
Without Substation 41, as it is known, in Kearny, New Jersey, there wasn’t enough electricity to power Amtrak’s regular schedule.
The railroad also is obtaining extra equipment from Via Rail Canada Inc., which will be used on the line from Albany, New York, to Montreal, he said.
Amtrak will then be able to redeploy its own equipment to New Jersey to supplement that state’s rail system, which was damaged in the storm, he said.
The railroad’s busiest period each year is during Thanksgiving. Last year, a record 724,000 people traveled on the rail system during the eight days surrounding the holiday, according to a release.
Boardman spoke after delivering a speech in Washington at a U.S. National Mediation Board conference.
The railroad chief also said he’s looking forward to working with the presumptive new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster.
“I think that Bill Shuster wants to get some things done,” Boardman said. “We’re happy about that. We want him to get things done.”
Shuster is a regular user of Amtrak, Boardman said. “We know he knows us.”
Shuster announced his candidacy for the chairmanship to other lawmakers on Nov. 7, according to a release from his office.
The current transportation chairman, Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican, can’t return to the post because of party term limits unless Republican leadership grants him an exemption.
Mica has held several hearings in recent months critical of Amtrak, which he calls a “Soviet-style” operation. At a hearing on Aug. 2, Mica said Amtrak had lost $833.8 million in food and beverage service over 10 years.
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