NJ Transit Concedes It Won't Meet End of Year Deadline for Crucial Safety System Installation

Amtrak had threatened to deny access to any railroad that did not meet the deadline

What to Know

  • NJ Transit faces an end-2018 deadline to fully implement Positive Train Control, a system to prevent accidents
  • The railroad acknowledged Tuesday it will not meet that deadline, and will have to ask for a 2-year extension
  • Amtrak had previously threatened to deny access to its tracks to any railroad that did not finish PTC this year

New Jersey Transit will not meet the December 31 deadline to have a crucial safety system known as Positive Train Control up and running, Executive Director Kevin Corbett told NBC News 4 New York on Tuesday.

Instead, the third-largest commuter railroad in the nation says it will need an extension of up to two years, as provided for under law — assuming NJT can convince regulators to grant it. 

The Federal Railroad Administration, in a letter obtained by News 4 New York, told NJ Transit earlier this month that it was at risk of failing to meet the requirements to even apply for the extension.

But a source with the agency says it is confident it will have installed 85 percent of all hardware in place by the end of this year, which under federal guidelines would qualify it for the extra two years.

Positive train control, commonly known as PTC, is a system designed to automatically stop trains in certain circumstances, including pending collisions. Regulators have said a number of high-profile train accidents in recent years could have been prevented entirely if PTC — first mandated in 2008 — had been installed. 

Corbett tells News 4 that by Thanksgiving 2020 he expects to be enjoying his turkey dinner and not worrying about PTC, because it will have been finished by then.

But with NJT definitively missing the 2018 deadline, the question becomes how Amtrak will respond. 

Amtrak's president warned a congressional hearing in February that it might ban from its tracks any railroad that did not complete PTC installation by the end of the year.

"We continue to work with NJT to implement PTC," an Amtrak spokesman said Tuesday. 

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