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Is that an empty car on the train? Yes, but it’s actually helping commuters, NJ Transit says

BM5 via Woodhaven

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By Larry Higgs | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com


NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Why is there an empty rail car that is unavailable to commuters in front of the locomotive on your NJ Transit train?

The weird arrangement of trains has been a little confusing for the commuters who’ve encountered the unusual set-up during the last two weeks. But there is a logical reason for it.

Some trains have arrived with a locomotive that’s sandwiched between passenger cars.

The cab car in the front of the train overshoots the station platform because it’s not open to passengers. That’s confused some riders, especially when they realize the lead car is closed and have to sprint back to the ones that are open.

But there’s a good reason for the out-of-order trains. NJ Transit is doing it to reduce the number of trains cancelled because equipment isn’t available. A cab car equipped with positive train control is placed ahead of a locomotive that hasn’t had the safety system equipment installed in it yet.

PTC automatically stops a train if the operator fails to obey speed limits or signals.

“It has allowed us to operate trains that would not have been able to operate without those cab cars,” said Jim Smith, an NJ Transit spokesman.

There are 282 cab cars and locomotives that were PTC equipped by a Dec. 31, 2018.

There are roughly 150 other cab cars and locomotives left that need PTC equipment installed on them during the next two years. That doesn’t include equipment that’s out-of-service for routine maintenance, repairs or inspections.

Officials couldn’t say if this has helped reduce the number of trains canceled due to lack of equipment. Roughly 13 trains were canceled during the Wednesday morning commute because not enough equipment was available, according to NJ Transit alerts.

“That is a difficult number to quantify precisely as it changes daily,” Smith said. “Each train set runs a different number of scheduled trips.”

“We’re pursuing creative, “out-of-the-box” solutions and expending every available resource to maximize service delivery,” Smith said.

That includes leasing locomotives that a neighboring transit agency recently held a retirement ceremony for. Seven older electric locomotives that were retired by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority are being leased by NJ Transit, said Andrew Busch, SEPTA spokesman. Those engines are equipped with Positive Train Control apparatus, he said.

NJ Transit officials did not immediately answer questions about how the leased SEPTA locomotives would be deployed.

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