New Jersey halts payments to Amtrak after train derailments

NEW YORK, April 6 (Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has ordered the state to halt all payments to Amtrak and called for an investigation into the company's maintenance of tracks and other equipment after the derailment of an NJ Transit train earlier this week.

A slow-moving NJ Transit train left the rails during rush hour at New York's Penn Station on Monday, injuring one person in the second derailment involving Amtrak-maintained tracks at the busy Midtown Manhattan hub in fewer than two weeks.

"These incidents raise serious questions about the condition of tracks and other assets maintained by Amtrak," Christie wrote in a letter sent to Amtrak late on Wednesday and made public by the governor's office on Thursday.

Amtrak is responsible for maintaining tracks, signals switches and other railroad infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor, which runs between New York Penn Station and New Jersey.

NJ Transit, the state's public transportation system, pays Amtrak $2.5 million to $5 million each month to cover operating expenses. Last week, it made a $62 million payment for capital investments in the Northeast Corridor.

"The recurring derailments at (Penn Station) indicate Amtrak does not take its obligations seriously and has not effectively applied NJ Transit's considerable payments to the proper maintenance of these assets, which are absolutely essential to its customers," Christie said in his letter.

The governor said NJ Transit would cease the payments until an independent examination of Amtrak's equipment along the corridor has been conducted that demonstrates it is in good condition.

Christie also directed the state's attorney general to consider taking legal action to recover the $62 million and other past payments New Jersey has made to Amtrak.

An Amtrak representative was not immediately available for comment.