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Commuter rail project promises upgrades and enhanced service

Published: January 18, 2013
Section: News


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is currently conducting construction on the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line, which serves Brandeis and is the primary way for students to get to and from Boston and other surrounding towns.

The rail improvements may cause minor delays at points throughout this semester and the upcoming years, but should not result in any vast delays or service issues to students traveling into Boston.

The Fitchburg Line of the MBTA’s Commuter Rail system, which many students use to get to Boston, is a 50 mile-long corridor that connects Fitchburg to Boston, with a current total of 18 stops. The ride from each end of the line typically takes an hour and a half.

The plan is largely centered around enhancing safety and reducing transit time, according to the MBTA’s website. This includes both enhancements to the track itself, such as realigning portions and replacing/repairing bridge structures, and to infrastructure along the track, such as signals and track switches to help resolve freight-passenger conflicts. In addition, eight more miles of the track will receive double tracking in an effort to further reduce delays and congestion on the rail. Some commuter rail stations will also be improved, such as South Acton and Littleton.

Another major component of the project is the addition of the Wachusett station, located in Fitchburg. The station is a renovation of the previously decommissioned Wachusett station, and will include an overnight layover station for trains. Upon completion in 2015, the station will serve as “a new terminal station conveniently located in proximity to Route 2,” according to the MBTA’s website.

Many students have complained about the unreliability of the rail. It seems other riders have echoed these sentiments. According to the MBTA’s website, the Fitchburg line has been “unreliable and unpredictable” in the past, and has seen declining ridership as a result. Upon completion of the project, the MBTA projects a “service reliability increase from 83 percent to over 95 percent on-time performance.” This will be especially helpful to students who use the rail to travel to South Station for bus travel in the Northeast during breaks, as they are often forced to anticipate 2-3 hours of additional travel time.

Students have also complained about the fare increases that were enacted last year, and while the MBTA has not commented on whether there will be any changes in these, the project is described as initiating “reduced operating and maintenance costs, even while attracting new riders.”