As Massachusetts lawmakers prepare for a rare supervisory hearing to learn more about the MBTA’s myriad issues, the agency said Tuesday that it has withdrawn all of its new Orange Line trains from service. This move was precipitated by a battery failure in a car earlier this week, The Boston Globe reported.
MBTA spokeswoman Lisa Battiston told the Globe that the train with battery problems was not in service at the time.
The MBTA has been plagued by issues in recent years, particularly with regard to security. These issues led to a review of the T’s subway system by federal officials, who found wide-ranging problems, including dispatchers working 20-hour shifts and other employees working with expired safety certifications. Due to these findings, the T began operating fewer trains during the week, citing a lack of dispatchers.
On Tuesday, lawmakers decided to take more direct action. Senate Speaker Karen E. Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano announced that the transportation committee will seek to hold a hearing to better understand the agency’s shortcomings and “help restore public confidence.”
Spilka and Mariano pointed to Governor Charlie Baker, who they said has had control of the T since 2015. They said Baker’s administration has had the responsibility to manage the agency and arrange for proper maintenance work since Baker requested control.
Also on Tuesday, lawmakers mobilized to allocate hundreds of millions to address T safety concerns raised by the Federal Transit Administration inspection, the Globe reported.
The FTA is expected to release a full security management inspection report in August, but in the meantime, it has issued some “special guidelines” for the MBTA to be completed immediately. This includes increasing staff in your operations control center, improving overall safety operating procedures, and addressing delays in critical track maintenance and safety recertifications for employees, the Globe reported.
The FTA has only conducted a local security inspection like this once.
FTA Associate Administrator Paul Kincaid said the MBTA received these guidelines as a “result of ongoing security breaches and failure to take urgent corrective action.”
As the MBTA investigates the battery problems seen on the new Orange Line trains, authorities have also decided to keep the new Red Line cars out of service. The agency still expects hundreds of new trains on the Red and Orange Line from a Chinese company first contracted in 2014, Globe reported.
This is not the first time that new Orange Line trains have been taken out of service. Last month, T workers discovered that brake bolts were incorrectly installed on eight cars. The problem was first encountered on an Orange Line car when it was decommissioned at Wellington station. OT pulled all new Orange Line trains in for inspection and found the problem in seven additional cars.
Last March, new Orange Line trains were withdrawn after one derailed at Wellington station. They were returned to service last August.
Other MBTA lines also had security issues. Earlier this month, two Green Line trains collided near the Government Center. MBTA officials said a train was traveling at 14 kilometers per hour at the time of the accident, just above the speed limit of 11 kilometers per hour. Several train operators were hospitalized as a result of the accident.
But the most tragic incident related to the MBTA this year took place in April when Robinson Lalin, 39, was dragged to his death after his arm got stuck in a Red Line door. O Globe reported that Lalin got off the train at Broadway station before returning to his car. His arm got caught between the closing doors and Lalin was dragged 100 feet while still on the platform. He briefly ran alongside the train, but was found dead about 75 feet in the tunnel.
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