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NJ Transit suspends rail service after locomotive engineers fail to show up for work

NJ Transit rail service suspended, causing chaos and confusion
NJ Transit rail service suspended, causing chaos and confusion 02:36

NEWARK, N.J. -- NJ Transit rail service was suspended Friday evening, stranding commuters trying to get home.

The final Northeast Corridor train left Penn Station at 7:43 p.m.

The MTA says because of the suspension, the Metro-North Railroad's Pascack Valley and Port Jervis lines are being impacted. Both are operated by NJ Transit.

NJ Transit was accepting rail tickets on NJ Transit and private carrier buses, all three NJ Transit light rail lines, the PATH from 33rd Street in New York, Hoboken and Newark Penn. NY Waterway also said they would cross-honor NJ Transit customers on all ferry routes for the rest of the day.

Secaucus Junction was essentially a ghost town Friday night. Countless travelers and commuters were left scrambling when the last train rolled out at 8:22 p.m.

Passengers were grateful to board that last outbound train to Suffern, but for many, the trip had already been a slog.

"It's been incredibly frustrating. I can't imagine the people that don't even know what's going on, getting ready to get on a 9, 10 p.m. train," New York City resident Dylan Kyles told CBS2's Nick Caloway.

Those who missed the last few trains had few options.

Pearl River resident Michele Sparrow had to get an Uber.

"And then as soon as I got in the Uber, the driver told me he can't go to New York, so now I'm just waiting for another one," she said.

Watch Thalia Perez's report

NJ Transit riders stranded at Penn Station after missing last train 01:58

At Penn Station, the last New Jersey-bound train to Dover left just after 8 p.m., and many who didn't realize that was their last option were left scrambling without a plan.

Trina Holden told CBS2's Thalia Perez she was blindsided by the sudden service interruption and missed the train.

"I live in Jersey and I work in the city. This is frustrating for the last minute, for nobody to tell us nothing. Everybody is going crazy, don't know what's going on. It's just really not fair," she said.

Many riders who spoke to CBS2 said they didn't know they could use their tickets to take an NJ Transit bus or other alternative, as the information and ticket counters were all shut down.

The problems started in the middle of the morning rush. From Newark to New York City, delays and cancellations lit up the board and caused riders' tempers to flare. 

"I was on the North Jersey Coast Line. I should be home by now and all I'm seeing is cancellations. But this is NJ Transit. 'Just train bad,' that's their tag line," said Steve Cody of Middletown. 

More than 30 trains were canceled Friday morning after locomotive engineers failed to show up for work. Things did not improve in the afternoon. 

"People are running all around. They're changing it at the last minute. It's terrible," a rider told CBS2's Christina Fan.

The Atlantic City, Main-Bergen County, Montclair-Boonton, Morris and Essex, Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast lines were impacted, among others. 

Commuters were told to wait at their stations for the next available train. Wait times ranged from 10 minutes to more than an hour. 

"Yeah, there's a delay and we really have to get there soon so we can get back," another rider said. 

"I was going to take the 2:46 or something. It's canceled. So now I just have to wait," said Barbara Jackson of Queens. 

NJ Transit blamed the problems on an illegal job action by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. A spokesperson said the number of engineers who called out sick Friday was nearly triple the rate of an average weekday. 

NJ Transit admitted it heard rumors about this late Thursday. It was unclear what, if anything, was done in preparation.

"I waited, like, five trains, and they were all canceled," New York City resident Yesi Mendez said.

"Like, seven of them have been canceled," Upper West Side resident Tom Francesconi said.

When CBS2 caught up with Francesconi, he was two and a half hours into a one-hour trip to Suffern.

"I mean, I don't know why they all don't want to come in and drive the trains. I'm sure they make more money than a lot of people, so just frustrating that they don't want to come in and do their job," he said.

"New Jersey Transit is the culprit here. The unions suffer and the commuters suffer, and New Jersey Transit simply doesn't care," Cody said. 

"They should have negotiated, but without disturbing everybody else's life," another rider said. 

Charlton D'Souza, of the transit advocacy group Passengers United, was critical of the way NJ Transit informed passengers of the service cancelation and says the agency  should have given passenger more notice.

"I'm ashamed of NJ Transit. I'm ashamed of the governor and the way they've handled this. I'm sorry, NJ Transit passengers pay a lot of money for their monthly tickets and weekly tickets, and they deserve better than this," he said.

NJ Transit sources told us a disagreement with the union involves Juneteenth. The union is demanding off on the holiday, which was offered in the new collective bargaining agreement it has not signed.

NJ Transit released the following statement:

NJ TRANSIT became aware of a rumor late in the day yesterday that the locomotive engineers' union, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLE&T), could potentially initiate an illegal job action today. With today's engineer call outs at nearly triple the rate of an average weekday, it is clear that this is the result of an illegal job action. NJ TRANSIT is disappointed that the union would perpetrate such an act on the more than 100,000 commuters who depend on NJ TRANSIT rail service every day. We intend to explore all legal remedies in response to this illegal and irresponsible action.

CBS2 did ask NJ Transit for an interview, but they declined. We also reached out to the union but have not yet received a response.

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