Thursday, 4:30 PM
MBTA to buy locomotives and coaches
By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff
MBTA officials said Thursday they plan to buy 38 commuter rail locomotives and 75 double-decker coaches in a major step to improve reliability and cut overcrowding on the aging system.
The locomotives would help keep trains running on time, and the new coaches would address common passenger complaints about overcrowding and failing air-conditioning and heating units.
Commuter rail service sustained crippling slowdowns and cancellations last summer, largely because of the ailing rail fleet, which is between seven and 29 years old. At times, there were not enough locomotives and coaches to maintain the daily schedule.
The T has budgeted $190 million for the coaches and $120 million for the locomotives. T officials expect a portion will be funded by federal grants. The bid for locomotives and coaches could be awarded in the fall, with delivery over a period of three to five years, officials said.
"Itís good news for commuters," said James F. OíLeary, head of the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, the private consortium that contracts with the T to operate and maintain commuter rail.
The consortium is working under a five-year, $1.07 billion contract, signed in 2003, to run the nationís fifth-largest commuter-rail network, with 40 million passengers a year in nearly 80 municipalities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The fleet has 410 coaches, including 140 bilevel and 270 single-level coaches, and 80 locomotives. Commuter rail service, which carries about 74,000 passengers on an average weekday, needs 333 coaches and 56 locomotives to stay on schedule. On Wednesday, the consortium had 344 coaches available and 59 locomotives.
Daniel A. Grabauskas, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said the T plans to seek bids worldwide to make the purchase more competitive and to find technologically advanced equipment.
"We need to take advantage of new technology," he said in a statement. "A fuel-efficient, dependable, and environmentally friendly commuter rail vehicle is what our customers deserve and why we are encouraging manufacturers to competitively bid this work."