Although New Jersey Transit fully installed the positive train control emergency braking system on all its trains, it’s still not certain when service will resume on the Atlantic City Line, Gov. Phil Murphy said at an unrelated press event Wednesday afternoon.
“The testing associated with [PTC] has had a longer tail than I was anticipating,” Murphy said.
NJ Transit has until the end of 2020 to ensure its PTC system is fully functional. But it is not certain whether the agency would in the meantime be able to reopen the Atlantic City line, restore direct service on the Raritan Valley Line to New York Penn Station, and cut down on service disruptions stemming from the installations.
The Federal Railroad Administration, which oversees compliance with PTC requirements, still has to inspect and test all the PTC-equipped vehicles before they can return to routine service, according to Nancy Snyder, a spokesperson for NJ Transit.
We are still beholden to things outside of our control, and that’s the Portal Bridge, it’s the Gateway Tunnel, it’s largely federal stuff.
But the FRA has been reduced to a skeleton staff as a result of the government shutdown, contributing to delays in the testing, according to a senior administration official.
“We are still beholden to things outside of our control, and that’s the Portal Bridge, it’s the Gateway Tunnel, it’s largely federal stuff,” Murphy said.
In September, NJ Transit abruptly announced it would take the Atlantic City line out of commission to fully install PTC. A move which in part contributed to the passage of a stringent oversight bill governing the agency, including a requirement for extensive public input before NJ Transit can suspend any of its lines.
A spokesperson for the FRA did not comment, saying the agency’s media relations staff were furloughed and could not respond to inquiries for the duration of the shutdown.
“Under the law, NJ Transit must operate PTC-equipped locomotives or cab control cars on the front and rear of all trains. This has had an impact on our flexibility to substitute equipment when an unplanned mechanical issue occurs,” Snyder said in a statement to NJBIZ.
The agency rushed to install PTC last year ahead of the Dec. 31, 2018 deadline, triggering a so-called “Summer of Hell Part 2” for commuters, complete with rampant cancellations, delays, overcrowded trains and shortages of engineers and equipment.