Gov. Murphy checks out the little engine that could improve NJ Transit’s reliability

Posted Apr 06, 2021

He blew the horn and rang the bell. Gov. Phil Murphy lived a kids dream Tuesday as he sat at the controls of NJ Transit’s newest $9 million locomotive at Newark Penn Station.

But Murphy said the bigger thrill is that the 25 new locomotives that are scheduled to be delivered through the year will improve NJ Transit’s rail reliability numbers and reduced canceled trains.

“This is a big deal,” Murphy said after being show the locomotive cabin. “This is delivery of the first dual-powered dual-mode locomotive, it can run on diesel or electric power.”

This not the railroads first dual mode, the first ones were delivered in 2011. But this fleet will be cleaner, using diesel engines that meet the most stringent Tier 4 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions standards, said Kevin Corbett, NJ Transit’s CEO and president.

They’ll reduce the average age of NJ Transit’s locomotive fleet and increase reliability, he said.

The new locomotive is the first to arrive from Germany, where they are being manufactured.

The locomotive can switch between using electric power from overhead wires to an onboard diesel engine in 83 seconds, he said. That gives this first of 25 new locomotives the flexibility to go anywhere on NJ Transit’s rail network.

“More than 80% of locomotives will be eco-friendly and more reliable,” Murphy said. “This is a huge step in right direction for NJ Transit.”

They’ll replace PL-42 AC diesel locomotives built between 2004 and 2006. They’re being retired because of their unique design, only found on NJ Transit that makes the cost to overhaul them close to their original purchase price, officials said.

Adding the new locomotives also will help reduce canceled trains

The younger the fleet, the less likely trains are to breakdown and be canceled, Corbett said.

“Lowering the average age of our fleet improves mechanical reliability. The average age is 22 years, this will bring it to 17 years when all 25 dual modes are delivered,” Corbett said. “The target is 15 years old, that’s the sweet spot where you have good reliability.”

NJ Transit measures reliability by mean distance between failures or how many miles equipment travels between breakdowns.

What’s next on the horizon is delivery of 113 new electric multi-level rail cars in two years to replace the 40-year-old Arrow rail car fleet. And after that, the Comet II rail cars that also are 40 years old and have been rebuilt once.

“We have options (to buy more multi-levels). With the Comets, that depends on having the funding available,” Corbett said. “It’s in our capital plan, but only $12 billion is funded. Anything (from the Biden bill) that goes to filling that gap allows us to get rid of the aging Comets.”

Ultimately the dual modes will allow rail lines that now rely on diesel locomotives to travel into New York Penn Station, after completion of the Gateway project to build two new Hudson River tunnels. Diesel locomotives are barred from regular use in the tunnels.

Will President Biden’s proposed $2 trillion infrastructure bill help?

While specific projects to be funded through it haven’t been identified, if it passes Murphy said the state will benefit from earmarks for rail and public trains.

“Assuming it passes, New Jersey will be a disproportionate winner. I’m extremely optimistic of about our prospects specifically on Gateway,” he said. “That infrastructure bill is a game changer.”

Federal funds could help finance further electrification of NJ Transit and highway infrastructure.

“As a general matter, we want to electrify as much of transit, including cars,” Murphy said. “It’s projects like this and getting an electric car fleet to be the norm in our state. I’m optimistic, we have a federal administration that shares our values on the environment. I’m very confident get a lot of help from them.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-04-07 02:22:33 -0700