MassDOT announced that the MBTA and its Commuter Rail contractor MBCR have completed the final steps in their acquisition of the CSX rail lines on which Worcester/Framingham commuter trains travel, opening up the line to increased service opportunities for passengers.
“By taking over the dispatching duties this week, the state can now give absolute priority to passenger service along the line,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Richard A. Davey.
Dispatching is among the final elements of the agreement between CSX and the Commonwealth, which took ownership of the railroad right-of-way last year. “Controlling operations and maintenance along the line is a critically important part of our concerted effort to not only improve reliability, but also increase service between the state’s two largest cities,” said MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott.
This week’s transition provides for multiple benefits:
MBCR has direct control (dispatching) of all train and maintenance activities on the 45-mile long line. Dispatchers at South Station can, and will, give priority to Commuter Rail trains over freight trains when necessary.
There is greater flexibility in managing train movements to address any operational situations, such as medical emergencies and downed trees, that may develop. In addition, Commuter Rail operators can now dispatch extra trains or extra engines without going through a cumbersome – and time consuming — paperwork process first.
Commuter Rail dispatchers can now communicate directly with train crews. Prior to this week, MBCR dispatchers would have to relay questions or directions through the CSX dispatchers in Selkirk, New York. This communication was not immediate and many times would delay response to unscheduled events along the line. It’s now easier to turn an ‘express’ train into a ‘local’ or a ‘local’ train into an ‘express’ train.
Heat-related speed restrictions will be significantly reduced. The CSX Corporation imposed speed restrictions on all of its railroads if temperatures exceeded ninety degrees anywhere on the East Coast. This corporate rule, which sometimes resulted in unnecessary delays along the Worcester/Framingham Line, no longer applies. In addition, stepped-up maintenance work will result in improved track conditions, making rails less susceptible to ‘heat kinks.’
The MBTA remains on schedule to increase to twenty the number of roundtrips between Worcester and Boston this year, fulfilling a commitment made earlier by the Patrick Administration.
With the completion of the new and fully accessible Yawkey Station this fall, more trains will be able to service the station now that the MBTA has complete control over dispatching.
Since taking office in 2007, improving the state’s transportation infrastructure has been a key priority of the Patrick Administration. As part of the Massachusetts State Rail Plan, the Administration has strategically invested close to $1 billion in the state’s rail system through competitive grants, public funds and private sector capital. These investments, some ongoing, represent the most significant improvements in the Commonwealth’s rail system as a whole in decades.