NJ Transit buying 113 state-of-the-art rail cars to replace aging fleet (they just won’t be here for a while)

Here’s the good news: The New Jersey Transit board of directors approved a contract to purchase 113 new rail cars, including the first self-propelled multilevel rail cars in the United States.

The better news: The cars will replace ones that are more than 40 years old, while increasing seating capacity on a 12-car train from 1,380 seats to 1,552 seats. In addition, the new cars will feature roomier two-by-two seating as opposed to the three-person bench seats that are currently in use. And they also will include customer amenities, such as USB charging ports and new, onboard information displays.

The only bad news: The vehicles are scheduled to begin testing in the third quarter of 2022 and are not expected to enter revenue service until the second quarter of 2023.

The order is the largest for rail cars in recent years by NJ Transit, and will allow the agency to replace the oldest rail cars in its fleet. The cost for the contract will not exceed $670 million plus contingencies.

NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett said the purchase shows the agency is moving forward.

“This historic purchase is the perfect example of how NJ Transit is reclaiming its position as a national leader in transportation,’’ he said in a statement.

“The new self-propelled multilevel cars break new ground in railroad technology, and we’re proud that NJ Transit is leading the way. With this investment, we’ll be able to retire the oldest rail cars in our fleet, while increasing reliability, efficiency and customer comfort.’’

The purchase, which consists of 58 “power cars” with electric propulsion capability and 55 non-powered trailer cars, was approved as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget. A request for proposals went out in October 2017.

The Multilevel III Power Cars are Electric Multiple Units, a multiple-unit train consisting of self-propelled cars using electricity as the motive power. An EMU requires no separate locomotive, as electric traction motors are incorporated within one or a number of the vehicles on the train.

The Multilevel III Passenger Vehicles will replace the aging Arrow III EMUs.