Monday, November 05, 2012

For NJT, equipment damage looms large

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New York-area residents attempted some resumption of "normal" travel-to-work routine Monday, with varying degrees of success. But New Jersey residents may be deprived of adequate rail transit alternatives for far longer than their counterparts in New York State and Connecticut may expect, in large part due to damaged rolling stock and locomotives.

Bloomberg Radio reports NJT says 23% of its rail rolling stock, and 34% of its locomotives, have been damaged or rendered unusable by Hurricane Sandy. Quantitative repair estimates, as well as cost, are unavailable.

But last Saturday NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein acknowledged that NJT won't be able to resume normal rail operations for at least four weeks, and possibly much longer. That contrasts sharply with service resumptions by other New York-area regional railroads.

NJT has slowly been adding Bombardier BiLevel cars to its equipment fleet, with 329 on order. No immediate evaluation of damaged BiLevels was available. NJT also uses single-level coach cars and single-level electric multiple-unit (EMU) trains. On Monday, NJT relied heavily on its bus services, which in many cases were overwhelmed by diverted public transit demand.

Amtrak resumed operations on the New Jersey portion of its Northeast Corridor last Friday, Nov. 2, and Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman says the railroad is seeking ways to boost capacity on the NEC between Trenton and New York to augment NJT service there, which also has resumed.

NJT resumed service Sunday on a small segment of the North Jersey Coast Line, badly affected by Hurricane Sandy. Trains also are resuming service on NJT's Hoboken Division, though Hoboken Terminal remains flooded by the storm; passengers on these trains can transfer at Secaucus Junction for NEC trains, already strained past passenger capacity.