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Amtrak riders spend extra 25 hours on rails

Sun., Jan. 1, 2006

NEW YORK – The Amtrak train that was delayed for more than 24 hours finally pulled into Penn Station on Saturday – long after many passengers had run out of toilet paper, food and patience.

“I can guarantee I will never step foot on another Amtrak again,” said Bernard Marcoccia, 44, a truck driver from Syracuse, N.Y. “They treated us worse than the freight.

“I hate their guts. They were absolutely useless, totally incompetent, totally unprepared.”

The Silver Meteor from Florida to New York was stalled twice after a freight train derailed in Savannah, Ga., at a “choke point” on a north-south line, authorities said.

Some of the 250 passengers stuck on board told tales of clogged toilets, crying babies and families that didn’t have enough cash for extra meals in the dining car.

“They didn’t want to feed us or nothing,” said Georgette Neal, a mother from Brooklyn who was traveling with her three children. “It’s just the worst.”

Riders pooled money with strangers to buy food they shared among themselves. Elderly passengers fretted about not having enough medication to get them through the delay.

Airline worker Patricia Greaves, 46, ended up paying for a hotel she never slept in.

Karen Chiel, a mother of two from Port Washington, N.Y., said her low point came when she saw seven armed sheriff’s deputies running through the train in Savannah, apparently responding to an upset rider. “It was an absolute nightmare of a trip,” she said.

The Silver Meteor left Orlando, Fla., at 1 p.m. Thursday and was stuck in Jacksonville, Fla., for 12 hours. It was then stalled for half a day south of Savannah waiting for the freight train to be moved.

It finally pulled into Penn Station at 11:30 a.m. Saturday – 25 hours after it was supposed to.

Amtrak spokeswoman Tracy Connell apologized but blamed CSX, the freight line, for underestimating how long it would take to clear the derailment. “We thought the best thing to do was hold the trains, but it kept getting pushed back,” she said. “The derailment happened in an inconvenient location where we had no alternate route.”


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