NJ Transit graduates badly needed train engineers

New Jersey Transit's pool of engineers just got a little bigger.

Gov. Phil Murphy and NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett on Wednesday morning presided over a ceremony marking the graduation of seven people from engineer training classes.

Immediately after, both officials fielded questions on the lack of engineers. Murphy continues to blame his predecessor, Gov. Chris Christie.

NJ Transit has also seen repeated instances of employee absenteeism to the point that trains have been routinely canceled.  The latest example reportedly from personnel calling out sick was 13 canceled trains on Columbus Day alone.

Murphy said 10 of those cancelations were due to lack of "manpower."

"It's not that engineers are deliberately wanting to hurt anybody," Corbett said. The problem is that the railroad doesn't have a "bench" of engineers who can pick up shifts.

NJ Transit has seven engineer training classes being done concurrently. Previously announced cash within the state budget is allowing the agency to increase hiring efforts.

The increase in engineers also means the return of some off-peak direct-to-New York trains on the popular Raritan Valley Line.  That service resumes on November 4 but peak hour direct service is still not planned on the line despite growing ridership and thousands of new housing units being built near stations on the line.