NJ Transit blames ‘unplanned absences’ for cancellations
NEWARK — NJ Transit ended the week on a down note for commuters, with a dozen trains canceled because of a lack of engineers on a rainy Friday morning.
"Twelve trains were cancelled this morning due to 26 unplanned absences of locomotive engineers. We are aware of the impacts that a single cancelled train has on our commuters. In order to minimize the impacts, every available engineer was called in, and rail management staff that remained qualified and certified, was used to operate the system," NJ Transit said in a statement on Friday afternoon.
Only the Atlantic City Line and Main-Bergen Line escaped without any cancellations. The Morris & Essex Line was the hardest hit, with three canceled trains.
Amtrak signal problems on Thursday night caused 60-minute delays for NJ Transit between Metropark and New York Penn Station. Service on the Raritan Valley Line between Newark Penn Station and Cranford was also suspended because of a man struck on the tracks east of Dunellen around 1:15 a.m.
Maintenance work by Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor Thursday afternoon also caused delays for part of the afternoon commute between Trenton and New Brunswick.
Other commuters took to Twitter to express their frustration at the commute and said their trains were running slowly between Elizabeth and Newark, or with delays.
According to the individual Twitter accounts for each NJ Transit line, the following trains were canceled:
- 4:16 a.m. from Dover on the Morris & Essex Line
- 4:55 a.m. from Hoboken on the Morris & Essex Line
- 5:45 a.m. from Dover on the Morris & Essex Line
- 5:47 a.m. from New York Penn Station on the North Jersey Coast Line
- 6:06 a.m. from Lake Hopatcong on the Montclair-Boonton Line
- 6:08 a.m. from Newark Penn Station on the Raritan Valley Line
- 7:04 a.m. from South Amboy on the North Jersey Coast Line
- 7:05 a.m. from Jersey Avenue on the Northeast Corridor
- 7:18 a.m. from Lake Hopatcong on the Montclair-Boonton Line
- 7:23 a.m. from Spring Valley on the Pascack Valley Line
- 7:31 a.m. from Summit on the Morris & Essex Line
- 7:59 a.m. from Spring Valley on the Pascack Valley Line
Gov. Phil Murphy has made improving NJ Transit service a priority in the early days of his administration and proposed an additional $242 million in funding for the agency in his budget.
A total of $21 million is going to "bus and rail facility maintenance, technological software improvements, and other supplies that will improve the overall reliability and overall health of the transit system," Murphy said at an event at the Madison train station in March.
NJ Transit has increased its efforts to hire locomotive engineers which has been a chronic problem for the agency. In 2016 Robert Lavell, vice president and general manager of rail operation warned that 93 retiring engineers would not immediately be replaced.
A separate NorthJersey.com review of the NJ Transit engineer roster in September showed that “dozens” of its 370 engineers are eligible for retirement now or in the near future. It also reported that the number of engineers leaving NJ Transit for Metro-North has increased in the past year.
James P. Brown, head of the NJ Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers said in July that NJ Transit needs to hire 30 new engineers.
NJ Transit said its efforts to bring in new engineers include increasing the frequency of training classes, streamlining the hiring process to ensure better retention rates of trainees, and holding community recruiting events to make the application and interview process more accessible. It currently takes two years of training for a recruit to become an engineer.
"Providing safe and reliable service to our customers through more effective recruiting and retention practices remains a top priority for NJ Transit," the agency said in a statement.
Acting Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti has not yet returned a message seeking comment about this morning's cancellations.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report
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