On NJ Transit’s Morris & Essex lines, the busiest stations are Newark Broad Street and Summit; both have 3 station tracks and 2 platforms, and when several trains arrive at once, a traffic jam can ensue, particularly if 1 or more trains are running behind schedule. Summit can be particularly bothersome, as some trains “turn back” to New York or Hoboken, so they must have some place to wait until it’s time to depart on their return trip. However, there is no convenient place for these trains to wait, so they sit out on the main line; schedules are carefully constructed to allow for this, but if trains get behind schedule the whole house of cards can begin to collapse, as a waiting train then blocks through trains trying to find their way past Summit.
Compounding the problem is the set of “crossovers” at Summit, which allow trains to change tracks. These have sharp curves and require low speeds, which makes everything take that much longer; even when there are no problems, riders will notice how slowly trains move through this trackwork, particularly to or from the Gladstone Branch, which begins at Summit. Now NJT is planning to do something about the situation. According to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (May 9), NJT plans to construct a new siding or “pocket track” with a capacity for 12-car trains; this will allow trains reversing direction to be parked without blocking through trains. The improvement should allow more flexible scheduling of the entire M&E system. On May 8, the NJT Board approved a $2 million contract for engineering design work for the project; the contract went to Jacobs Engineering Group of Morristown. The new siding is scheduled to be ready by 2017. Unconfirmed reports suggested that the slow-speed crossover problem may be corrected as part of the same project.