NJ Transit has announced service on 18 trains that normally run on the Northeast Corridor, New Jersey Coast Line, the Morris & Essex, the Montclair-Boonton, the Main and the Bergen County Line will be suspended for three months, starting Oct. 14.

The cancellations are taking place so that NJ Transit can finish installing positive train control, a federally mandated emergency braking system, by the end of this year.

NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said the positive train control project is moving ahead smoothly and it’s on target to be completed by the end of the year. But installing the system is extremely complex.

“People don’t understand this is like [...] the Apollo space program. When you see the communication back to our mainframe computers, back to the tracks, it’s an incredibly complex safety enhancement program," he said.

NJ Transit Assistant Executive Director Eric Daleo said multiple PTC components must be installed inside and below every train.

Each train will have crash-hardened event recorders installed; components that will tabulate PTC data; a separate on-board computer system that will direct all PTC functionality that’s taking place; and up front, the speed display unit.

Part of an NJ Transit PTC computer. David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ

“It’s the engineer’s interaction with the PTC system. The speed display unit indicates if the vehicle is in over-speed condition, has an alert system for the engineer to signal that they’re present," Daleo said

He said PTC will create an additional layer of safety for NJ Transit if a train is speeding or is out of control.

To install the system in each train, “it takes anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the complexity of the system.”

“We’re taking modern technology and incorporating it into vehicles, some of which were built in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s. Every vehicle is slightly different.”

Corbett agreed that part of the reason why installing PTC takes so long is because NJ Transit is using 10 different engines and fitting each one of them with the new safety system requires different approaches and techniques.

He also pointed out that as work on PTC is completed, NJ Transit will continue to work to improve all aspects of their operation, including communication.

“I’m confidant NJ Transit can once again become a national role model in public transportation," Corbett said.

He noted some conductors are now using hand-held devices on trains “that will not only improve fare collection but also give our train crews access to real-time information to share with our customers during incidents that impact services.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com