NEW YORK City Transit officials were amazed how well subway lines near the World Trade Center withstood the collapse of the two towers on September 11, especially as the top of some 85 year-old tunnels ran just 1·5m below street level. Credit was given to the subway’s designers, who supported the tunnels with steel arches placed every 1·5m and then surrounded them with concrete and brick.

The worst destruction was on the IRT line used by Routes 1 and 9. Nearly 185m of tunnel had collapsed in two sections east of where the towers had been. More than 1830m of the two-track tunnel from south of Chambers Street to South Ferry station must be totally rebuilt, which may require two years or more.

The second blocked route is the BMT Broadway subway, used by the N and R lines, south of Cortlandt Street. Fears that the tunnel had collapsed proved unfounded, and inspection found relatively superficial ceiling damage between Rector and Cortlandt Streets. MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow hopes to have Routes N and R back in service by March. The WTC terminal station on the 8th Avenue subway used by the E line was virtually unscathed and may reopen once surrounding streets are cleared.

Service on lines passing near the WTC was initially truncated at 14th Street, and the subway map in lower Manhattan was quickly redrawn to provide alternative routes.

Operations on New York’s three commuter networks were little affected by the attacks once the initial confusion was over. Services on Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and New Jersey Transit returned to normal the next day, although security at Manhattan railway stations was beefed up. On September 11, NJT and LIRR trains were stopped until it was determined that the Hudson and East River tunnels were safe.

The subsequent anthrax scares have prompted reviews of security on metro networks, and in Washington trials are likely to take place next month in at least one station with equipment that can detect and identify toxic chemicals. This has been developed under the Programme for Response Options & Technology Enhancements for Chemical/ Biological Terrorism.

Meanwhile, rail transit planners fear that many projects could be in jeopardy now that a considerable amount of government spending will be directed at the anti-terrorist war effort, bailing out domestic airlines, aid to New York City and other programmes. On the other hand, President Bush has indicated he may propose expanded government spending to stimulate the economy.