Commuters, advocates admonish NJ Transit officials over cancellations

Posted: Updated:
NEWARK -

New Jersey Transit board members got an earful from commuters and rail advocates who said that they were frustrated by dozens of last-minute train cancellations recently.

About 20 trains were canceled on Monday – often with little warning for commuters who say that they were left stranded on platforms.

“We cannot count on any particular scheduled trains actually running,” said one commuter at the meeting.

Another commenter asked board members if any of them had taken a NJ Transit train to Wednesdays’ meeting. None of the board members raised their hands.

“That’s a basic problem we have,” the commenter said.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez Scaccetti says she blames the cancellations on engineer shortages caused by years of under-investment in recruiting and training. NJ Transit officials also said that the shortages have been exacerbated by unexcused absences combined with required track safety work.

NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett says he vows to fix communication issues and to bring on more engineers.

“Unexcused absences are totally unacceptable,” Corbett said, adding “I share [riders’] frustrations. We’ve been looking at the communication side to see if we can get that more instantaneous.”

Corbett also said that nine new engineers will be starting work shortly, adding that train cancellations should lessen as summer vacation season ends. But he added improvements are going to be gradual.

Officials said that about 58 percent of the positive train control safety system is installed. Some trains have had to be canceled due to the installation.

News 12 New Jersey reached out to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen for comment on the unexcused absences by engineers, but did not hear back.

More than 100,000 people ride NJ Transit trains to New York daily, directly or via connections.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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