Here’s what the MBTA is doing in the wake of last week’s commuter rail derailment

Crews had apparently allowed the train to "pass through a switch that was not properly aligned."

The inbound commuter rail train derailed near the Boston University Bridge last week. Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe

The MBTA says it is instituting a number of reforms in response to last week’s post-Christmas derailment of a commuter rail train in Boston.

The incident occurred last Thursday when crews aboard a train from Worcester allowed the vehicle to “pass through a switch that was not properly aligned” near Landsdowne station, the MBTA announced Sunday following a joint investigation with its commuter rail operator, Keolis, and the Federal Railroad Administration.

The agency reiterated that none of the train’s 200 passengers were on the coach that derailed and that no injuries were reported; the car that went off the tracks did so at a low speed and stayed in an upright position.


However, the incident did damage a section of track and forced trains on the Worcester/Framingham line to share one side as they passed through the area Thursday, resulting in significant service disruptions through the afternoon rush hour into Friday morning. Steve Poftak, the MBTA’s general manager, called the whole situation “particularly frustrating.”

As of Sunday night, the agency said that crews had made “substantial progress” toward permanently repairing the track — to the point that regular service could resume. And a Keolis spokesman said Thursday that permanent repairs had in fact been completed prior to the Monday morning rush hour.


“Personnel remained in the field to monitor track infrastructure and trains have operated approximately 90 percent on-time within 10 minutes since Monday,” Justin Thompson, a public relations manager for the company, told Boston.com in an email.

Still, officials are taking steps aimed at preventing the “human error” that caused the derailment from occurring again in the future.

After the incident, the MBTA and Keolis took “immediate steps to enhance crew training, strengthen communications between crews and dispatchers, and inspect similar systems across the network.”

A bulletin was sent to all commuter rail train crews to increase awareness around the rules governing manual switch operations. According to Keolis, the message included further instructions on how to properly line the type of switch involved in the derailment last week. The company says the special instruction will be complemented with more training and reminders from route line managers, which Keolis hired last year to communicate with train crews and improve performance across the system.


The MBTA and Keolis also said they plan to enhance training for conductors and engineers, including “hands-on switch training” and an expanded skills assessment program, which includes working with a practice switch and a locomotive simulator installed in 2018 at their offices in Somerville.

Following a critical assessment of the MBTA’s safety “deficiencies” by outside experts last month, Poftak said the agency was also hiring more workers focused on preventative maintenance. However, equipment  doesn’t seem to be at fault for last week’s derailment. According to the joint investigation by the MBTA, Keolis, and the FRA, the track and train set involved were found to be in good working condition before they were damaged by the apparent error.


Crews subsequently worked overnight to make repairs to the rail, rail ties, switches and other track infrastructure damaged in the incident.

“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,” officials said Sunday.

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