MBTA announces permanent track repairs substantially complete on Worcester Line

All mainline track repairs required to operate regular Worcester Line service are complete.

Substantial progress has been made towards permanent repairs to the Worcester commuter rail line, including repairs to the main track to allow both tracks to be used Dec. 30, according to an announcement from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

“MBTA and Keolis crews completed necessary permanent repairs and inspections safely and quickly with the goal of resuming regularly scheduled service Monday morning,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “Due to the upcoming winter storm, we urge our customers to check MBTA.com in the event of weather-related delays or schedule changes. Our crews will continue to complete repairs, and we will keep working with Keolis and the [Federal Railroad Administration] to implement reforms in response to this derailment to safely and promptly restore reliable service for our loyal riders.”            

Some additional track work remains ongoing to restore one crossing damaged during the Dec. 26 derailment to full functionality. Although this crossing is not critical to restoring regular service on the Worcester Line, having it operational allows for additional resiliency during inclement weather.

Crews from Keolis, the MBTA’s commuter rail operating partner, repaired track infrastructure that was damaged when Worcester Line train 518 derailed in an upright position at a low speed on Dec. 26 near Lansdowne Station.

Since the incident occurred, crews each day, including overnight shifts, worked to safely and quickly repair rail, crossties, switches and other track infrastructure that was damaged when one coach car derailed.            

Immediately following the incident, the MBTA, Keolis and the FRA began an investigation, which found that the track infrastructure and train set involved were in good working condition before the Dec. 26 event. Initial findings also suggest the train crew allowed the incident train to pass through a switch that was not properly aligned. No passengers were on board the coach car that derailed, and there were no injuries to passengers or train crews. With indications of human error as the contributing cause, the MBTA and Keolis took immediate steps to enhance crew training, strengthen communications between crews and dispatchers and inspect similar systems across the network, according to MBTA.

In response to this incident and following the details confirmed through the MBTA-Keolis-FRA investigation, several additional actions have already been taken. A special instruction to all commuter rail train crews was issued to further increase awareness around the rules governing manual switch operations. The maintenance records for the track infrastructure involved in this incident have been reviewed and all required maintenance was completed appropriately, and Keolis and MBTA crews are currently inspecting all systems on similar track infrastructure across the network.

Keolis and the MBTA say they also plan to enhance training for conductors and engineers, including additional hands-on switch training and an expanded skills assessment program both on-trains and utilizing a new Keolis-MBTA simulator. Keolis and the MBTA installed a practice switch last year for training and built a state-of-the-art locomotive simulator. These are both located at the MBTA facility in Somerville, Mass.

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