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Superstorm Sandy: Northeast rail, road travel still sluggish

Amtrak trainTravel in the Northeast US is still struggling to get underway following Superstorm Sandy. Airports have started reopening and flights are resuming, but rail and road travel is still hampered by the damage left in the wake of the unprecedented ‘Frankenstorm’, which closed all transit services along the East Coast. It could take until next week for everything to get back to normal.

New York’s John F. Kennedy International and Newark International airports were reopened on Wednesday, and the area’s LaGuardia Airport was reopened on Thursday. Other airports across the region were reopened on Wednesday and Thursday as well. Despite this, not all flights are operating yet, with hundreds still being cancelled. More than 20,000 cancellations have been made since the storm hit, making it worse than last year’s snow storm.

But while air travel services are working their way back to normal at a rather steady pace, other modes of transport across the Northeast are getting off to a slower restart. Train services weren’t very reliable, with commuter trains operating on limited schedules. Amtrak operated services on Thursday between Boston and New Haven, and from Newark to Washington, DC, as well as further south. Water from one tunnel under the Hudson River was pumped out by the middle of the day, and tests were being done to see if the tunnel was safe for travel on Friday.

On the roads, the best option seemed to be intercity buses. Megabus, Greyhound and Bolt Bus were all operating almost normal schedules. During the storm, Megabus had to cancel over 550 trips, which affected some 27,500 customers in 14 states from the Northeast to the Midwest. Then on Thursday it was able to operate 95% of its routes, and it expects to run a full schedule on Friday. Greyhound, Peter Pan and Bolt Bus were operating on full schedules throughout the region, except in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Most mass transit systems were still closed in the state, and those who couldn’t use the system were stuck on congested roads and in long queues at fuel stations.

Others trying to drive in New York City weren’t as lucky. Officers were looking into every car that tried to go into Manhattan, ensuring that people were carpooling according to emergency regulations. If there weren’t at least three people in a vehicle, the drivers were ordered to vacate highways and bridges. This caused a lot of trouble on its own, as the many people without power and internet access didn’t know about the rules and were turned away. However, even once people were able to get passed police, they faced a huge gridlock in traffic.

New York City’s subway system wasn’t running to Brooklyn or south of midtown, leaving many commuters to wait for temporary shuttle buses. Over 1,000 queued at one bus stop in Brooklyn. At another stop, people rushed the bus door when it arrived. Other people took out their cycle or prepared themselves for walking for a while.

Meanwhile, British nationals who have been stranded in the Northeast have been sent help from the UK. Many had to leave their belongings behind in hotels when they evacuated from Superstorm Sandy, and consul-general to New York Danny Lopez says they are being issued emergency passports so they can get home. Consular staff are doing all they can to help.

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