After an absence of 2 years and 8 months, weekend train service returned to the Gladstone Branch on June 6. Trains run hourly as shuttles between Gladstone and Summit, connecting there with Morris & Essex Line trains between Dover and New York Penn Station. For Hoboken or Montclair passengers, there is a train connecting at Broad Street Station in Newark approximately every other hour. The schedule is similar to the one in effect until October 2018, when substitute bus operation began. Running time is 44 minutes eastbound and 54 minutes westbound, compared with 57 minutes eastbound and 62 minutes westbound for the bus operation.
The Lackawanna Coalition has called on NJ Transit to restore weekend trains on the “Branch” since they were eliminated. There is on anomaly in the schedule: a 7:14 a.m. train westbound from Summit and a 12:22 a.m. train eastbound from Gladstone to Summit at the end of the service day, neither of which have any connection to or from New York, Newark, or Hoboken. The Coalition continues to call on NJ Transit to fill this gap at the beginning and end of the day.
In a press released dated June 1, the agency quoted CEO Kevin S. Corbett as saying that the additional trains “will increase the frequency and stability of rail service throughout our system, and are especially necessary now – at a time when more and more customers are returning to our system, and frequent and more-reliable service is more critical than ever”. Coalition members have reported encouraging ridership increases outside traditional peak-commuting hours on weekdays and especially on weekends, although ridership on early-morning “commuter trains” to New York still appears weak.
NJT also announced service restorations on other lines, including the Northeast Corridor (NEC) to Trenton and North Jersey Coast and Raritan Valley Lines. One such train leaves Raritan for Newark at 4:04 p.m. The Coalition was particularly concerned about that train, since it had provided a connection at Somerville for riders from Flemington and other points on Hunterdon County’s local bus system, Hunterdon Link. Two other trains that previously provided such a connection and had been discontinued were restored last August. Now all Hunterdon County riders have reasonably-convenient rail connections.
Seasonal weekend Shore shuttles between Long Branch and Bay Head have returned, as well. Regular service on the North Jersey Coast Line runs hourly to Long Branch, but only every 2 hours south of there. There is now service to Bay Head most hours on the weekend, thanks to the extra trains, which will run through September 11. The Coalition has called for hourly 7-day service on all full-service rail lines, including the Montclair Line to Montclair State Station, the Bergen County Line, and the Coast Line all the way to Bay Head. Full 7-day hourly service to Bay Head ran only once during the line’s history: for 4 months in 1983. Montclair weekend service runs only every 2 hours, and only as far as Bay Street Station.