EXCLUSIVE: Are you in danger riding the rails at Penn Station?

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Jim Hoffer has the story.

7 On Your Side Investigation
Following two back-to-back derailments, Amtrak claims they're finally going to fix years of deferred New York City's Penn Station maintenance this summer.

A veteran Amtrak Engineer told us in an exclusive interview that management had repeatedly ignored warnings about unsafe tracks there.

Amtrak Engineer: "Trying to let somebody knows, it falls on deaf ears.
Hoffer: "Why?"
Amtrak Engineer: "It's all about money and getting trains out, on-time performance. That's it, that's all that matters, getting trains out on time."

7 On Your Side Investigates recently received a document sent to the head of Amtrak by leaders of the union representing track maintenance workers.

The letter reads: "We believe a state of emergency exists on Amtrak property and that unspeakable tragedy awaits us."

The date of the letter was March 23rd - the day before the first Penn Station derailment.

Hoffer: "It says unspeakable tragedy?"
Amtrak engineer: "We've had two wrecks in the last two years, how many more before someone finally wakes up."

The Amtrak engineer requested that we protect his identity for fear he'd be fired. He says often times when engineers report track problems they go unfixed.

Photos: Train derailment scene in New York Penn Station in March

Amtrak engineer: "It's almost like an inconvenience, you call in, 'OK no problem, we'll fix it.' Whether they inspect or take care of it is the question."
Hoffer: "That often goes ignored?"
Amtrak engineer: "Most times!"

"They wait until something happens to fix it. We, as employees, report it all the time, and it goes by the wayside," Michael Callanan, a former Amtrak conductor.

Watch an extended version of our interview with the engineer:
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A whisleblower comes forward with safety concerns.


Callanan worked as an Amtrak conductor out of Penn Station for several years. His tells a similar story: reported safety problems are often ignored.

"I've reported problems with tracks," he said. "I've reported problems with the actual train equipment itself, and it always falls on deaf ears."

As if to underscore these whistle-blower claims, days after the two derailments, the head of Amtrak acknowledged the track defects that caused one of the accidents was known but not fixed.

"We had notations these timbers needed to be replaced. We clearly did not have the understanding there was an imminent failure," Amtrak president Charles Wick Moorman said.

Amtrak claims that with the doubling of train traffic through Penn Station in the last 40 years, there is little time to make track repairs. The engineer and the former conductor say that's an unacceptable excuse.

"There is time to do maintenance at night and if your excuse is the terminal's too busy to do maintenance, then you shouldn't be running a railroad," Callanan said.

In response to this report, Amtrak says their workers have multiple ways to report any safety concerns and when we receive those we take immediate steps to evaluate and address those as appropriate.

The railroad also says they are taking proactive steps to improve the infrastructure at Penn Station.

Related Topics:
amtrakpenn stationinvestigations7 on your side investigationNew York CityMidtown
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