With January nearly over, NJ Transit acknowledged Friday that the suspended Atlantic City Rail Line would not resume service this month. Passengers will have to wait until at least April.
The transit agency released a statement Friday saying the line, which served close to 2,000 passengers a day, wouldn’t return to service until some time between April and June. The agency cited a shortage of engineers and equipment as the reason for the delay. Training and maintenance inspections were continuing, the statement said.
Rail passengers have been making do with bus service during the line’s suspension.
As recently as December, NJ Transit was open to the possibility that the Atlantic City rail service could resume service in January. It did not respond to questions Friday asking whether new information or developments occurred in the first three weeks of the year that necessitated further delay. NJ Transit would prioritize reopening the Atlantic City Line and the Princeton Branch in the second quarter, the statement said, though it did not specify when in that three-month period. NJ Transit officials have repeatedly said they are committed to keeping the Atlantic City Line operational. It carries less than 1 percent of all NJ Transit passengers.
NJ Transit shut down the line in September 2018 as part of a frantic rush to install enough of the safety system, Positive Train Control, to qualify for an extension on a federal deadline to have the system in place by the end of last year. PTC can automatically slow or stop a train to prevent derailments and crashes.
NJ Transit was painfully slow in installing the system and could never have met the deadline, but qualifying for the extension allowed the railroad to continue running without incurring potential daily fines from the Federal Railroad Administration. NJ Transit now has until 2020 to fully activate PTC.
The Atlantic City Line, though, has PTC equipment in place on its 60 miles of track, officials acknowledged in December. During the shutdown, the four locomotives and 16 passenger cars, along with some staff, from the Atlantic City Line supplemented busy lines in North Jersey that had been depleted due to PTC installation. The need for the equipment on other lines is a factor in keeping the Atlantic City Line shut down, officials have said.