NJ Transit officials still do not know when service will be restored on the Dinky train line.
“There is still no estimated date. We are working to restore service as quickly as we possibly can,” NJ Transit Spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said Wednesday.
NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett told the New Jersey Senate Transportation Committee on Monday that his staff members are currently evaluating the schedule for restoring service to the Dinky and other train lines. Service was cut in October so that the Dinky staff members and equipment could be used to install positive train control on other train lines.
State Senator Patrick J.Diegnan Jr., who heads the transportation committee, pressed Corbett on the time table for restoration of service is for the Princeton Dinky and other train lines at the Monday hearing.
“We’re working on that as soon as possible,” Corbett said. “One, we have to get our submission finished off to work through the static testing, etc., then put all the documentation down to the FRA (Federal Rail Administration). When they give us the sign-off — technically they have 45 days but they assured us they will try to expedite it as quickly as possible — then we have to schedule the picks for the labor unions.”
Diegnan asked if the timetable for service restoration was “like 90 days, something like that.”
“Yes sir, certainly that,” Corbett said.
Next year, NJ Transit will be testing the new system. Certain weekends, some train lines may have to be suspended for testing. Under federal guidelines, all railroads must be fully operational using positive train control by December of 2020. NJ Transit must complete a certain percentage of the work by the end of 2018 for the Federal Rail Administration’s year-end milestone requirements.
Corbett told the committee the agency is making significant inroads hiring new staff members. More than two thirds of NJ Transit’s customers ride buses, and the agency has hired more than 300 bus drivers., he said. NJ Transit has also hired new conductors. The agency, which has an engineer shortage, received more than 5,000 applicants for new engineers. It takes about 20 months to train engineers. By next fall, the agency hopes to have about 30 more engineers.
“It’s a gradual improvement, but we still have challenges in the year ahead,” Corbett said.
Officials expect to have enough engineers by 2020.