Hike service

Amtrak takes advantage of weekend service outages to carry out critical repairs in the North River Tunnel

Written by David C. Lester, Editor

Amtrak engineering forces use jackhammers, crowbars and other tools to remove loose and unstable concrete from the North River Tunnel bench wall in preparation for new concrete to be poured as part of the interim reliability improvements in progress.


Amtrak personnel recently spent a series of consecutive weekends in March repairing damage to the bench wall system in the South Tube of the North River Tunnel.

This maximized efficiency without disrupting regular train service. Crews were able to take advantage of previously scheduled work that required weekend service outages to replace critical switches near New York Penn Station. Photos of the work are available via this link.

Concrete repairs and leak mitigation are part of the interim reliability improvement program


“The Federal Railroad Administration is proud of our investments to improve the reliability of the North River Tunnel, knowing that its safety and reliability are a necessity for the many Americans traveling in the Northeast Corridor,” said the deputy administrator of FRA, Jennifer Mitchell. “FRA is committed to working with our modal partners within the Department of Transport and with Amtrak and other stakeholders to advance long-term rail infrastructure needs in the region.

Crews use a jackhammer to loosen and remove loose concrete on the bench during a recent 55-hour weekend outage in the more than 100-year-old North River Tunnel. (Amtrak)

“These interim improvements are critical to ensuring the continued safety and reliability of the North River Tunnel and improving our customers’ travel experience to and from New York City with minimal inconvenience,” said Laura Mason, Executive Vice President of Capital Delivery. “With such limited windows to carry out maintenance without reducing service, we must take every opportunity to do so when we can and thanks to the excellent work of our employees, we have been able to act.”

During a 55-hour weekend outage, when more invasive work could be done without affecting service, crews jackhammered loose and unstable concrete from the walking surface, poured and set Installed fresh concrete and modernized a patch chamber below the surface that crews must climb into to repair damaged sections of the 12,000 volt power cables running through the walls of the tunnel.

Workers also grouted the tunnel’s concrete lining to redirect infiltrating groundwater and minimize the frequency of infrastructure failures such as signaling issues and poor track conditions. In 2021, crews took advantage of at least two 55-hour weekend shutdowns when the tracks were removed to clean out the drainage system under the platform.

The work is part of an approximately $150 million investment in a series of temporary improvements Amtrak is making to the more than a century-old tunnel as construction of a new Hudson River tunnel progresses under the Gateway program. The program does not negate the need for eventual closure of the tubes for full rehabilitation once a new tunnel is built.

The North River Tunnel Interim Reliability Improvement Program is a series of work packages that can be undertaken during existing maintenance windows to target the most problematic sources of train delays and infrastructure failures. Future phases of the work involve the digital digitization of the track bed and improved asset monitoring, which will allow crews to react more quickly and strategically if something goes wrong.

For brief updates and comments, please follow me on Twitter @davidclesterRTS