NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey Transit said Thursday it will reduce its train service over the next several months as it tries to install a federally mandated safety system by a Dec. 31 deadline.
Last week, the Federal Railroad Administration sent a letter expressing concern that NJ Transit, the nation's third-largest transit system, would miss the deadline to install the emergency braking system, called positive train control.
In the aftermath of a 2008 commuter rail crash in California that killed 25 people, the government required commuter and freight railroads to have the system installed by the end of 2015. That deadline later was extended three years.
Through the end of 2017, NJ Transit reported it had only 35 of 440 locomotives equipped with the system, and hadn't finished installation on any of its 11 track routes.
NJ Transit could get a two-year extension to finish installing PTC if it meets certain benchmarks by the end of the year, such as installing all system hardware and completing employee training. But even that is in doubt, according to last week's FRA letter.
Last month, NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said an overnight test of the system on tracks in Morris County had been successful and that he was more confident than he had been when he assumed the position a month earlier. But he stopped short of saying NJ Transit would meet the 2018 deadline.
NJ Transit's service changes on its 12 commuter rail lines will go into effect on June 4 and last through early next year. A total of four morning inbound trains to New York will be temporarily canceled, and two others will eliminate some stops. A total of five outbound trains that operate between about 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. will be temporarily canceled.
"We are doing everything in our power to install this important safety technology as quickly as possible," Corbett said in an email Thursday. "I ask for customers' patience during this process as the end result is a safer railroad for everyone."