NJT entrance to NY Penn Station
NJT entrance to NY Penn Station

On Tuesday, September 4, the day after Labor Day, railroads using New York's Penn Station adjusted their schedules, after a summer of repair work on the station and its connecting tracks.  For Amtrak, owner of Penn Station, it was back to normal, with the railroad's trains returning to their normal routes after a summer in which trains from the north were diverted to Grand Central Terminal or cancelled completely. But for NJ Transit, problems seemed to increase, instead of a return to normalcy, according to reporting by Patrick McGeehan for the New York Times (Sept. 3). As the holiday weekend approached, on August 31 Amtrak officials showed off the work the station owner had accomplished: fixing two of the tracks and their platform in Penn Station itself, and rebuilding the bridge that carries Amtrak trains from northern Manhattan into the Bronx and beyond. In contrast, NJ Transit continued to experience train cancellations, and on September 4 instituted modified schedules that eliminate through service from its Raritan Valley Line into Penn Station, and at the same time eliminating all service on its Atlantic City line in western New Jersey, a move widely believed to be needed to free up trains and crews to work on services to New York. While Amtrak was proclaiming its trains as running 95% on time, NJT cancelled about 15 trains in the August 31 morning rush. NJT officials say they expect fewer cancellations in the fall, with the reassigned Atlantic City crews and with nine new locomotive engineers joining the force after completing a years-long program.  But even running a full schedule may not solve all the problems for New Jersey commuters, as car and bus traffic may be snarled by lane closures on the Lincoln Tunnel approaches, scheduled to remain in effect for several years, necessitated by crumbling infrastructure. Many of those commuters may find their way to the rail network, further taxing an already overloaded system.