Amtrak apologizes for missing Odenton station
Amtrak took responsibility today for a lapse Monday night in which a northbound Penn Line MARC train missed its stop at Odenton station in Anne Arundel County -- forcing passengers to continue to the BWI station to catch a southbound train back to their destination.
Maryland Secretary of Transportation Beverly Swaim-Staley and Maryland Transit Administration chief Ralign T. Wells were both aboard the train, MTA spokesman Terry Owens said.
"They were not at all happy," Owens said. "We are extremely disappointed with Amtrak's performance and we have conveyed that to the highest levels of Amtrak management."
Joseph Boardman, chief executive of Amtrak, released a statement in which he apologized to more than 150 passengers who were inconvenienced by the mistake aboard Train 538, the same one that was stranded a week before for two hours in blazing temperatures.
Boardman said the incident is being reviewed but that the early indication is that "the engineer began to slow the train too late and as a result continued past the Odenton station by about three car lengths before coming to a stop." By the time the train came to a stop, he said, it could not back into the station because another train was coming up behind it.
Amtrak said Odenton-bound passengers were transferred to an Acela Express train that stopped at Odenton to let them off. The railroad, which operates the Penn Line under contract with the Maryland Transit Administration, estimated the delay at 30 minutes. The Amtrak chief and other managers appeared at the Odenton station this morning to apologize to commuters in person.
Several MARC riders reported that the train crew's first reaction was to blame track conditions rather than engineer error. Kevin Cup of Severn, who said he was sitting in the lead passenger car of the train that overshot the station, said regular passengers noticed that the train was approaching Odenton too fast.
"Just before we passed the station (at full speed), the train’s brakes were applied sharply and very briefly (as if the engineer tried too late to make the station stop in time)," Culp said. "The brakes were immediately released and we came to what I can only describe as a stop under 'normal' braking about 1 mile north of the station. The train sat there idle for about 2-3 minutes until the trip resumed north. A conductor apologized and indeed blamed the missed stop on 'rail conditions.'"
Culp, like other irders, found the explanation unsatisfactory.
"What makes me apoplectic is the manner in which these things are handled," he wrote. "Instead of just telling us the truth (the engineer made a mistake; we’re really sorry; please get on the next southbound train) they make up these fantastical stories and treat us with disdain, condescension, and sanctimony."
Some MARC riders were looking for more than an apology.
"The relationship between MARC and AMTRAK needs to be reevaluated," said Penn Line rider Eric Luebehusen. "It needs to be pointed out at the highest level that MARC passengers are not to be treated as second fiddle to their AMTRAK counterparts. AMTRAK needs to stop simply sending trains around disabled MARC trains to maintain its own on-time agenda."
The Odenton incident was just one of many troubles reported on the MARC system Monday. including malfunctioning traffic signals and heat-related track problems on the Camden and Brunswick lines. Owens said the two late Penn Line trains were both seriously late -- one by an hour and the other almost two hours -- because of mechanical problems. The last train, No. 446 scheduled to leave Union Station at 10:30 p.m., didn't depart until nearly 12:30 a.m. because an electric locomotive malfunctioned.