Keolis crews get more training on switches

Instruction follows derailment on Worcester Line last week


THE MBTA AND KEOLIS will expand training programs for commuter rail personnel after an initial investigation determined that human error in switch usage caused a derailment on the Worcester Line last week.

All train crews were given “special instruction” on rules governing manual switches following the incident, the MBTA announced Sunday evening. The agency and Keolis, which operates the commuter rail system, will also enhance the training that conductors and engineers undergo, including use of a locomotive simulator installed last year and hands-on switch training.

A joint investigation launched alongside the Federal Railroad Administration determined that the train crew “allowed the incident train to pass through a switch that was not properly aligned,” allowing the train to derail, according to the T.

The crew involved was removed from service until the investigation is complete, Keolis said.

One car went off the rails near the Lansdowne station around 3:40 p.m. Thursday. The vehicle was traveling below the 30 miles per hour speed limit and remained upright, officials said.

About 200 passengers were on the train, but none were in the car that derailed and no injuries were reported.

The initial investigation found no maintenance or infrastructure issues affiliated with the train set or the stretch of track involved. Inspections are underway on similar areas of the commuter rail network.

Crews made “substantial progress” over the weekend toward repairing sections of the track damaged by the derailment, allowing regular service to operate Monday morning. However, with winter storm conditions expected in much of the state, T officials cautioned that riders should check online for alerts about possible delays.

“Our crews will continue to complete repairs, and we will keep working with Keolis and the FRA to implement reforms in response to this derailment to safely and promptly restore reliable service for our loyal riders,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in the press release.

The incident was the second this month involving an in-service commuter rail train. During the morning commute on Dec. 2, a coach detached from its train near South Station due to mechanical issues.

Meet the Author

Chris Lisinski

Reporter, State House News Service
An independent panel of transit safety experts, led by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, found this month that “safety is not the priority at the T,” but identified the commuter rail network operated by Keolis as an exception.

The commuter rail, they wrote, “is performing well and does not face many of the challenges that were identified on the transit side of the house.”

Keolis is under a $2.69 billion contract to continue operating the system until 2022. The contract features two separate two-year extensions the T could exercise.