Federal regulators have given official approval to New Jersey Transit for a two-year extension to complete the implementation of a required emergency braking system.
The Federal Railroad Administration sent a letter this week that said NJ Transit met six key criteria by the end of December.
NJ Transit and several other railroad operators around the country had sought and received extensions past the original Dec. 31, 2018, deadline mandated by the federal government.
The system, called positive train control, can automatically stop a train when its engineer is incapacitated or unable to operate controls. It was mandated by federal regulators after a 2008 commuter rail crash in California that killed 25 people, but it has taken years for the nation’s freight and passenger railroads to install the complex system on locomotives and trackside infrastructure.
NJ Transit’s installation, which had lagged for several years, gained more impetus after a 2016 crash at the Hoboken terminal killed a woman and injured hundreds. Beginning in early 2018, new Executive Director Kevin Corbett made it a priority but it came with consequences for riders as trains had to be taken out of service, forcing service cutbacks during the second half of the year.
Some of the disruptions remain: the Philadelphia-to-Atlantic City line has been out of service since last fall and won’t resume service until May 24, NJ Transit announced Wednesday.
Among the next steps required by the FRA are that NJ Transit wrap up training more than 900 employees on the new system and, perhaps more important, conduct live testing on its 11 rail lines. Last year, NJ Transit conducted testing on a 17-mile stretch of track in western New Jersey during overnight hours.
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