Newburyport and Rockport Commuter Rail Update

Normal Schedule to Resume this Weekend, Monday Service will be Announced Sunday Following Heavy Rain and Continued Testing

Crews modified existing equipment to remove salt water from track bed 

BOSTON – January 12, 2018 – Keolis Commuter Services (Keolis), the MBTA’s commuter rail operating partner, will resume normal weekend service on the Newburyport and Rockport lines. The service level for Monday will be announced Sunday. These lines operated a modified schedule this week to allow work crews to repair the signal system that was damaged by the historic tidal surge following the snow storm on January 5.

 “Our teams have been working around the clock to restore normal service to the Newburyport and Rockport lines. We appreciate the patience of our passengers as we perform this critical work,” said David Scorey, CEO and General Manager, Keolis. “Our teams will be monitoring this system throughout the weekend and taking proactive measures to minimize the impact of the heavy rain and continued melting expected over the next 24 hours.”

An historic tidal surge damaged the signal system on these lines in the Saugus area along the marsh. A safe low voltage electrical current runs through the tracks as part of the signal system. If the current is disrupted, which occurs when a train passes over the tracks, the signals are designed to turn red. Salt water and salt-contaminated snow and ice penetrated the track bed, causing this current to ground and turn signals red when no train is present.

All the snow, ice and salt was removed, and the track bed was rinsed to restore proper operation. Keolis and MBTA teams utilized a ballast regulator, typically used in warmer months for track construction, to scrape snow and ice from this half-mile stretch of track. This equipment performed multiple passes across both sets of track and was followed by a wash train that sprayed water to further rinse away the salt.

The wash train is typically used in October and November to remove a film that builds up on tracks when leaves and other debris fall. Crews modified it to expand the spray area, which typically is focused on the rail, but this change allowed it to wash the entire track bed with 9,000 gallons of water.

“The teams re-purposed several pieces of equipment to clear an unprecedented amount salt water from the track bed following the tidal surge, and we made considerable progress,” Scorey said.

Testing of the signal system will continue throughout the weekend to ensure all the salt was removed and that the system is operating reliably. Commuter rail service operates on a weekday schedule Monday, January 15. Passengers traveling Monday should check, follow MBTA_CR on Twitter and sign up for T-Alerts to stay informed of service.