MBTA head calls for outside review after 2 derailments cause widespread disruption

BOSTON (AP/WHDH) — The head of the Boston-area transit system promised an independent review of recent subway derailments after one during Tuesday’s morning rush caused widespread disruption for commuters.

Steve Poftak, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said investigators were trying to determine why the third car of a Red Line train went off the tracks at an above-ground stop near the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts and the John F. Kennedy presidential library.

About 60 passengers were evacuated from the derailed car, authorities said. One person was treated at the scene for a hand injury and a second person, who initially left the scene, returned later complaining of neck problems and asked to be taken to a hospital, according to Poftak.

The 39-year-old operator has since been taken out of service pending the outcome of the investigation.

The incident came days after a crowded Green Line trolley derailed below ground near Kenmore Square, sending nine people to hospitals and requiring police and firefighters to guide passengers to safety through a darkened tunnel.

Poftak stressed there was no connection between Tuesday’s derailment and the one on Saturday. The earlier incident has been preliminarily blamed on that train’s operator, who has since been suspended.

But Poftak said he wanted a “fresh set of eyes” to examine the incidents.

“I think we have an obligation to the riding public and taxpayers to make sure we are taking every step possible to address these issues,” he said, in announcing plans for the third-party review.

There have been four derailments so far this year, Poftak said.

MBTA officials scrambled throughout the day to mitigate the disruption caused by the Red Line derailment, but delays were expected to continue while crews used cranes to extricate the disabled train and repair damage to the tracks and signals.

Extra buses were deployed to shuttle passengers who normally use that stretch of the Red Line, and the MBTA also offered special commuter trains from Boston’s South Station that riders could use at no extra cost.

Service on the line was restored around 5 p.m., nearly 12 hours after the derailment. Despite that, the Wednesday morning commute will not be an easy one.

Braintree branch riders will need to change trains at JFK/UMass for continuing service to South Station. Riders inbound on the Ashmont branch will not need to switch trains at JFK/UMass.

The recent derailments added to frustration felt by riders and local officials over the aging transit system — better known as the “T” — plagued by frequent mechanical breakdowns and delays, even as users braced for an average 6% fare hike that takes effect July 1.

“This week’s @MBTA derailments are unacceptable,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, on Twitter. “We need answers, solutions & more funding, and we need it now.”

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has pointed to a five-year, $8.5 billion capital investment plan that he says will gradually improve MBTA service and reliability. But many advocates and lawmakers are pushing for tax increases to provide more resources for public transportation.

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