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Amtrak plan to serve Long Island as Metro-North seeks Penn access

USA: Amtrak announced on February 5 that it had reached agreement with the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority covering two enhancements to passenger services. The first is a long-standing proposal to allow MTA Metro-North to use Amtrak infrastructure to reach Penn Station in Manhattan, while the second envisages investment to enable Amtrak inter-city trains to serve Long Island.

The Penn Station Access programme would see Metro-North trains use some of the spare capacity that is to be freed up in 2023 when Long Island Rail Road trains are diverted to serve the deep-level terminus at Grand Central Terminal under the much-delayed $11bn East Side Access scheme.

Metro-North currently uses the capacity constrained upper platforms at GCT as its Manhattan hub, but PSA would allow the operator to share Amtrak-owned infrastructure between New Rochelle and Sunnyside Yard. The so-called Hell Gate line passes through residential districts in the Bronx, and four new stations are proposed at Hunts Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-op City.

The PSA agreement will see MTA fund a programme of enhancements along the Hell Gate line, including signalling, track and power supply renewal; MTA will also share the costs of operation and maintenance of the upgraded route with Amtrak.

Amtrak and MTA have also agreed to start planning how inter-city trains could reach destinations on Long Island that are currently only served by LIRR. An Amtrak spokesman told Railway Gazette that ‘no specific’ details of this plan were yet available, but one immediate challenge would be to manage the transition between the third-rail electrification used on LIRR and the mix of overhead AC supply and diesel traction used by Amtrak.

‘We are pleased to have reached an agreement that will allow MTA to advance with design and construction of improvements related to the Penn Station Access project, the eventual operation of new Metro-North commuter rail service into New York Penn Station and construction of four new commuter rail stations in the Bronx’, said Amtrak’s Senior Executive Vice President Stephen Gardner. ‘We are also looking forward to working together on advancing direct Amtrak service to and from key population centres on Long Island.’

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