Md. transportation secretary calls for MARC review after recent lapses

On Monday, a northbound Penn Line train overshot a stop at the Odenton station. Last week, riders were stranded near Cheverly.
On Monday, a northbound Penn Line train overshot a stop at the Odenton station. Last week, riders were stranded near Cheverly. (2004 Photo By Rich Lipski/the Washington Post)
By Michael Dresser
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Calling the service on the Amtrak-operated MARC Penn Line "unacceptable," Maryland's top transportation official demanded that the national passenger railroad conduct a "top to bottom review" of its MARC operations to prevent a recurrence of lapses that have plagued the service in recent weeks.

The statement by Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly K. Swaim-Staley came the day after she was aboard a northbound Penn Line train that overshot a scheduled stop at the Odenton MARC station -- forcing passengers to continue to the Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport station to catch a southbound train back to their destination. The incident came a week after passengers on the same train, No. 538, were stranded for two hours in sweltering heat on the tracks near Cheverly.

Amtrak, which operates the Penn Line under contract with Maryland, apologized to MARC passengers for the Monday night incident at Odenton.

In a message to MARC customers, Swaim-Staley said she had "experienced firsthand the severe frustration of my fellow passengers at the failure of Amtrak to carry out even this very basic task of stopping at a scheduled station." She and Maryland Transit Administration chief Ralign T. Wells were taking the train to talk with riders when passengers realized something was wrong.

Amtrak chief executive Joseph H. Boardman apologized to riders at the Odenton station Tuesday morning. Amtrak said it appears the engineer overshot the station by about three car lengths and couldn't back up because another train was behind it.

The incidents will be on the agenda Wednesday when Swaim-Staley and Wells meet with the MARC Riders Advisory Council in Washington. The public meeting is set for 4 p.m. in Room 337 of the Hall of the States Building, 400 N. Capitol St., near Union Station.

Boardman, Swaim-Staley and Wells are also scheduled to appear at a special "Meet the MARC Managers" event from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Union Station.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company