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Northeast trains halted by power trouble again

August 24, 2010

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Power problems forced Amtrak and regional transit agencies to halt trains throughout the Northeast for more than an hour Tuesday during the middle of the morning rush.

Amtrak said low-voltage troubles forced it to suspend service between New York City and Washington, and between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., starting at 7:45 a.m. The exact cause of the problem wasn't immediately known, Amtrak spokesman Steve Coleman said.

The power problems also forced NJ Transit, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and Maryland Transit Administration to halt their trains.

At Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, business travelers stood around, messaging on cell phones as all the trains on the schedule board were listed as delayed. Shortly after 9 a.m., railroad workers announced to waiting passengers that power had been restored and all trains would begin moving shortly.

Amtrak expected residual delays throughout Tuesday morning.

Riders on NJ Transit's Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast trains faced delays of up to 90 minutes. Philadelphia's SEPTA said commuters would face delays of up to an hour.

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The Maryland Transit Administration also was forced to cancel a handful of trains.

Harold Kirsten, 60, of Avon, Conn., had to stay overnight in Philadelphia because storms canceled his flight Monday evening, and was having just as tough a time leaving Tuesday morning because of the train delays. Kirsten was trying to make his way to Newark, N.J., for a business meeting.

"You learn over time to adapt, otherwise you'll have a nervous breakdown," he said as he read a book on his iPad to pass the time.

The shutdown derailed the ride to work for commuters for the second time this month. On Aug. 11, a fallen tree knocked out power and rail signals, delaying East Coast trains for up to two hours.

Arad Shaiber, a 30-year-old software engineer from Philadelphia, was trying to get to work in Downingtown. His 9 a.m. train was posting a departure time of around 10:20 a.m., but he expected it to be longer.

"I'm frustrated, but I'm kind of used to it by now," he said.

At Philadelphia's Suburban Station, Amy Likoff, of Bensalem, stopped at a customer service desk before heading off to her job at a law firm.

"This is where you have to get your excuse notes," she said. "We get excused tardies if it's SEPTA's fault."

In Washington's Union station, Airicka Pearson, 21, was waiting to go to Baltimore with her 1-year-old daughter Airiell Rivers. Her 8:20 a.m. train had been delayed more than an hour.

She said she frequently takes the train and that delays are routine.

"It's kind of hit and miss with them," she said.

Meanwhile, Long Island Rail Road commuters faced delays and crowded trains Tuesday as the railroad worked to fix the damage from a switching station fire.

An electrical fire Monday in a switching tower had halted train service for four hours and disrupted the evening commute. The LIRR canceled some trains Tuesday morning and said it could take several days to make repairs.

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