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In re Application of Central Railroad Co.

Decided: December 7, 1956.

IN THE MATTER OF THE APPLICATION OF THE CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY OF NEW JERSEY FOR PERMISSION TO DISCONTINUE ITS MOTOR BUS SERVICE OPERATED BETWEEN FLEMINGTON AND SOMERVILLE, NEW JERSEY, IN SUBSTITUTION FOR PASSENGER TRAINS NO. 1509, NO. 1555, NO. 1500 AND NO. 1550


Goldmann, Freund and Conford. The opinion of the court was delivered by Freund, J.A.D.

Freund

This is an appeal from a decision of the Board of Public Utility Commissioners by which the petitioner Central Railroad Company of New Jersey was denied permission to discontinue bus service between Somerville and Flemington, New Jersey. The service consists of one round-trip each weekday, serving the intermediate communities of Three Bridges, Neshanic, Flagtown and Raritan, and connecting with the petitioner's eastbound morning train at Raritan for Jersey City, and with its westbound evening train at Somerville -- in effect, a branch line of the railroad.

Prior to 1953 petitioner operated passenger train service on its South Branch to the communities now served by the connecting bus, but the train was patronized by only about 18 persons, resulting in an annual deficit of $18,000. At the time, the petitioner was suffering an annual deficit of $2,500,000 in its passenger service, and its vice-president, Mr. N. N. Bailey, testified in a proceeding before the Board that such losses "constitute a grave threat to continuation of the essential commutation service which with present day facilities only the railroads can perform." The petitioner made a comprehensive survey of its passenger service and of the causes for the large deficit, as a result of which it proposed to reduce its losses by the elimination of duplicate and non-essential train service over lines on which the patronage was insufficient to justify continuance. In accordance with the survey, the petitioner sought to discontinue its passenger train service between Somerville and Flemington, proposing to provide substitute bus service between those

points. On February 1, 1953, such permission was granted. By contract with Dilley's Bus Service, the petitioner provided the substitute bus service, thereby reducing the annual deficit in the service from $18,000 to approximately $7,000. Because of the continuing loss, the petitioner now seeks to discontinue the bus operation.

After oral hearing, the Board denied petitioner's application, making in its decision the following specific findings:

"1. That there is a public demand for the service and that the service is convenient for those passengers who use it.

2. That there is no alternate public transportation which covers the entire area served by the bus.

3. That the record contains nothing to show that the bus service would be continued if the support of the applicant were to be withdrawn.

4. That The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey recognized its obligation to furnish transportation in the area between Flemington and Somerville when it inaugurated the bus service in substitution for its passenger trains.

5. That the substitution of bus service for passenger trains was made with full knowledge that a deficit would be continued after the change was made.

6. That the deficit from the bus operation is considerably less than the loss from passenger train operation."

On this appeal the petitioner argues first that the Board's findings are inadequate, citing In re Central Railroad Co. of New Jersey , 29 N.J. Super. 32, 38 (App. Div. 1953). In particular, the petitioning railroad asserts that the findings are wholly insufficient in that they fail even to make explicit whether or not public necessity and convenience require the continuation of the service. While it might be urged, and it is our opinion, that such a finding is implicit in the Board's determination, this court has recently declared that a finding so fundamental to the Board's decision should be "set out precisely in the decision of the Board, either as its first or concluding finding." Application of Central R. Co. of New Jersey , 41 N.J. Super. ...


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