Passengers on three Amtrak trains that were stranded in Georgia say train officials did little to nothing to ensure their comfort and safety during a 29-hour ordeal. It's the latest in a long string of incidents that have left passengers to fend for themselves, potentially endangering the elderly and handicapped.
On Dec. 26, at the height of the holiday travel season, passengers on a California Amtrak train were forced to disembark at Norwalk to take buses the rest of the way to Los Angeles because of scheduled track maintenance.
"Many of the elderly and handicapped people were having difficulty getting around, i.e. hearing problems and not understanding what was going on, vision problems, difficulty walking and carrying their luggage when not expecting to have to do this," said Shirley of Ojai, California, in a complaint to ConsumerAffairs.com.
On Oct. 4, passengers on a MetroLiner from New York to Washington, D.C., were ejected from their disabled train and told to walk about a quarter of a mile along the trackbed to the nearest platform, at Edgewood, Maryland, Joan of Fairfax, Virginia, reported.
"I have a neuromuscular foot disorder, so I had an especially hard time until a gallant young guy offered to carry my suitcase. There were others in worse shape -- with walkers, wearing high heels, etc.," she said.
In the latest incident, there were about 800 people on the Miami to New York City Silver Star, Silver Meteor and Auto Trains when a CSX freight derailed in Savannah, Ga., blocking the Amtrak trains until about 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Passengers said toilets stopped working and they were forced to spend their own money for dining car food during the lengthy delay. Some passengers said they went hungry because they ran out of money.
A caterer finally was brought aboard to provide free meals more than 20 hours after the delay.
Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said the situation wasn't Amtrak's fault but he provided no explanation for the railroad's apparent lack of emergency planning.
Though most delays are not as long as the Savannah incident, Amtrak's ontime record is hardly pristine. In June 2005, Kelly of Edison, New Jersey, reported her train was delayed for hours after an accident in Florida.
"The next morning, I woke up to no water or toilets at all on the train, so we had to wait until we got to a stop in VA to go to the bathroom ... but that was at our own risk, because if the train leaves, then oh well," Kelly said.