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Governors want 'verification' of Penn Station track safety

FILE - In this Wednesday, April 5, 2017, file photo provided by Amtrak, workers repair rails inside New York's Penn Station. Accelerated repair work in the wake of recent breakdowns at New York’s Penn Station will begin in May and cause delays this summer for rail travelers who already have endured major disruptions recently, Amtrak officials said Thursday, April 27, 2017. (Chuck Gomez/Amtrak via AP, File)

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The governors of New Jersey and New York say they want "independent verification" of track safety at New York's Penn Station, citing recent train derailments and serious service disruptions.

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie and New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the request in a letter sent on Monday to the heads of Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration.

They noted the agencies are reviewing Amtrak's infrastructure and maintenance protocols. But they said their states haven't been invited to take part in the assessment or in "the development of the needed response."

New York and New Jersey are the main users of Penn Station via the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit, with about 430,000 passengers each weekday.

Amtrak has said it and the FRA will assemble experts to study maintenance and efficiency issues and will involve the LIRR and NJ Transit.

"Amtrak is committed to improving the immediate conditions at Penn Station, while working with all our partners to address the lack of capacity and aging assets that threaten the reliable operation of the nation's busiest station," it said in an emailed statement.

It said a joint inspection of Penn Station it launched with the FRA and other railroad safety experts "will provide an independent assessment of the current conditions and recommendations for any needed improvements."

An April 3 derailment, the second in less than two weeks, wreaked havoc for hundreds of thousands of commuters and long-distance travelers on the Eastern Seaboard. Three cars in the middle of an inbound NJ Transit train dislodged from a track as it approached a platform.

The derailment, which damaged the track and a switch and knocked out service on eight of 21 tracks, apparently was unrelated to a March 24 incident in which an outbound Amtrak train left the tracks and scraped against an inbound NJ Transit train.

No serious injuries were reported in either derailment.

The FRA, the chief safety regulator for the rail industry, said proper infrastructure maintenance is critical to help ensure the safety of the traveling public.

It said the recent Penn Station derailments are under investigation and review and it will "conduct a thorough examination of the entire Penn Station infrastructure."