NJ Transit to cut service, fares for months of work

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Relief is in sight for New Jersey Transit's beleaguered rail riders, if only in the wallet.

Facing criticism over service disruptions as it seeks to meet a Dec. 31 federal safety deadline, NJ Transit said Thursday it will cut fares 10 percent for daily and monthly tickets for three months starting in November.

The move is seen as an attempt to ease the pain of even more schedule adjustments scheduled to take effect in mid-October that will cancel some trains and alter the origin and destination points of others. Regular service is expected to resume by mid-January.

"Further adjustments are necessary as we continue to accelerate the installation schedule," NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said in an emailed statement. "Failure to meet the federal requirements by December 31st is not an option."

NJ Transit has lagged behind most other U.S. railroads in installing positive train control, an emergency braking system mandated by federal rail regulators after a 2008 commuter rail crash in California that killed 25 people.

Railroads initially were required to have the system in operation by the end of 2015, but that deadline was pushed back to Dec. 31, 2018. NJ Transit has been approved for an additional two-year extension but must have the system fully installed and all relevant employees trained by Dec. 31.

To accelerate the pace of installation on its locomotives, rail cars and tracks, NJ Transit has already reduced some rail service, including the suspension of its line connecting Philadelphia to Atlantic City.

Taking train equipment out of service for installation, combined with higher-than-normal unscheduled engineer absences, contributed to last-minute train cancellations during the summer that had New York-bound riders fuming.

Other recent problems have included an overhead wire malfunction in the Hudson River tunnel on Sept. 7 that stranded more than 1,000 people on two trains. The tunnel infrastructure is owned by Amtrak.

The crew of an inbound train reported a piece of equipment that connects the train to the overhead wires pierced the roof of one of the train cars, but no injuries were reported.