BOSTON (WHDH) - Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey ripped into officials who oversee the T at a federal hearing Friday morning to crack down on the MBTA’s recent safety failures.
The committee leading the hearing looked at issues on the T, including runaway trains and a man who was dragged to his death. Those in attendance included MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak, Department of Public Utilities Chair Matthew Nelson and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.
“Your safety decisions are just made up!” Warren said, blasting Poftak. She called it “outrageous” that the Federal Transit Administration found 53 urgent safety concerns in a federal report issued earlier this year.
The report found the rates of derailments and collisions on the MBTA rail system far exceed the industry average. The committee focused on several incidents from the last two years, including the death of a Red Line passenger who was caught in the door and dragged off the platform in April in addition to the cases of runaway trains on the Red Line.
Warren grilled Poftak on when he would have some of the necessary repairs completed.
“We will get some of them done right away, again I don’t have a specific number off the top of my head,” Poftak said in response. “Some of them will take much longer.”
Warren also criticized Nelson, who was supposed to find the issues before they escalated to the federal level.
“It is your job to make sure the MBTA is doing its job, and you are failing,” Warren said to him.
Wu questioned why T riders are not seeing the results they were promised on the Orange Line after a monthlong shutdown.
“After an unprecedented 30-day shutdown of our busiest subway line, riders still hold their breath and cross their fingers when they step into stations and look up to see when the next train will arrive,” she said.
Poftak said additional work is delaying the effectiveness of repairs.
Markey, meanwhile, pressed Poftak on why he’s made promises he can’t keep.
“You knew the shutdown was not going to fix these slow (zones) and get the Orange Line back to full speed, you should have communicated that to the public at that time,” he said.
In response, Poftak said there was “a failure in internal communication to fully comprehend the impact on our riders” and also took the blame personally for a failure to communicate those failures more broadly.
Warren called for “new leadership from top to bottom” at the T.
The hearing also comes months after some Orange Line riders jumped from the windows after a train caught fire over a river, causing the MBTA to shut down the entire line for a month for repairs.
Poftak also said there are no plans to shut down another line completely, though there may possibly be some night or weekend work.
(Copyright (c) 2022 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)