In October 2018, officials from contractor Parsons Inc. told the agency’s board of directors that the project was five months off a schedule to test PTC on trains carrying passengers, because of a subcontractor’s software problem.
Positive train control is a system of computers, sensors, and other technology that should stop trains in case of human error. It is being mandated by the United States Congress in response to fatal train crashes.
Corbett explained Wednesday night that the software problem has been resolved.
“I don’t want to prejudge until the FRA (Federal Railway Administration) gets back to us, because they may have conditions on that,” Corbett told reporters after the meeting. “But that would certainly give us an extra month cushion from the schedule that was presented in October.”
“When I came into [this position] in February 2018, just about two years ago, we were 12 percent done with PTC installation, and although we have burned through a great deal of the contract value, and we got that done,” Corbett said. “So I feel a lot more comfortable now, this time around, with 10 months to go this time in February to complete and get certified by the end of the year. But it’s a tremendous amount of work. Because it’s not just our 11 lines; it’s interoperability, and all the railroads on the Northeast Corridor, you have the Northeast Corridor Commission. So we all have issues with interoperability with the freight lines.
“New Jersey has the most complex rail system,” he continued. “We have Norfolk Southern, Conrail, Metro-North, Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor, Sunnyside Rail Yard, and the Long Island Rail Road. All the systems being integrated on a national level is an incredible challenge. But on our side, we are getting great support from all the other railroads. And we are getting fantastic help from the FRA so I am very optimistic.”
This comes after a report from the New Jersey auditor tore into the agency over its skyrocketing costs for positive train control installment, questioned whether the system will be fully operational by the Dec. 31, 2020 deadline, and highlighted a chronic increase of delays over the past two years.
Should NJ Transit not fully implement the emergency braking system by the end of the year and have it installed, tested and certified, the trains would either need to completely stop, or the Federal Railway Administration would hit NJ Transit with a nearly $28,000 a day fine for every day they keep the trains running.
“NJT is behind schedule on its federally required safety system installation of Positive Train Control, and it is debatable whether NJT will meet the full implementation deadline of Dec. 31, 2020,” State Auditor Stephen Eells wrote in the report released Jan. 30.