‘Nightmare’ as passengers believed they were hostages after 29-hour Amtrak delay

Passengers believed they were being held hostage after an Amtrak train was detoured for 29 hours in South Carolina.

The Auto Train was on the way to Orlando, leaving northern Virginia at 5pm on Monday. It was initially scheduled to arrive in Florida at 10am on Tuesday, according to ABC News.

But after a CSX freight train was involved in a vehicle collision, the passenger train was detoured on its way through South Carolina.

Passengers then had to stay put while they waited for certified backup staff authorised to run the Auto Train in accordance with regulations governing how long a train crew can work.

“A travel nightmare is unfolding right now on Amtrak,” Sam Sweeney of ABC News tweeted shortly after 9pm on Tuesday. “Passengers on the Auto Train have been stuck on board for 29+ hours, currently sitting in the woods in rural South Carolina. Passengers called the local police saying they’re being held hostage.”

WPDE reported that the train was on the move again shortly before 10pm on Tuesday.

In footage posted by Mr Sweeney, a conductor can be heard speaking over the intercom.

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“For those of you that are calling the police, we are not holding you hostage,” the conductor said. “We are giving you all the information which we have. We are sorry about the inconvenience. As soon as more information is available, we will let you know shortly.”

Amtrak said in a statement on Tuesday night that the “southbound Amtrak Auto Train has been impacted by significant delays due to a CSX freight derailment in South Carolina. The train was detoured off its normal route in order to continue operating south and is currently stopped in Denmark, S.C., while it waits for a new crew to arrive. Customers have been provided meals, snack packs, and beverages”.

“A new crew is traveling to Denmark to board the train and work onboard when service resumes. A new crew is necessary because the hours of service for previous crew expired,” they added.

Some took to Twitter to share scathing messages for Amtrak.

“Hey @Amtrak my parents have been stuck on the auto train that left Lorton yesterday around 5pm. Need some answers - food is limited, bathroom facilities are gross, and children/elderly are aboard. They were supposed to arrive almost 12 hours ago,” Caitlyn Crowley tweeted late on Tuesday.

“Any help heading towards the fully booked Amtrak auto train full of elderly passengers that is now almost 10 hours past arrival time? No food, no access to medical care, crew has disembarked, no replacement. Stuck in SC,” another Twitter user asked.

Amtrak told ABC News on Tuesday that the staff was “working with pet owners to provide bathroom breaks”.

Some Twitter users appealed to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

“@petebuttigieg @SecretaryPete please help. We are stuck on the @Amtrak auto train. Scheduled arrival was 10am. We haven’t moved since 3pm because the crew timed out. Send Pizza and Diapers,” one person wrote.

“@Amtrak @AmtrakAlerts You need to get people stuck in train in South Carolina for over 15hrs, some type of EMS in there!!!!! Conditions are deplorable on the train! Silver Meteor 97 southbound to Florida,” another individual added.

Just after 6am on Wednesday, Mr Sweeney added that “after 37 hours and a pizza delivery to the train in Savannah, Georgia – The Auto Train has arrived at its destination in Sanford, Florida”.

The Independent has reached out to Amtrak for comment.