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In Wake Of Another Massive Delay, MBTA Considering Buying, Not Leasing, New Locomotives

By Jim Armstrong, WBZ-TV
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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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BOSTON (CBS) — For the second time in less than a week, a rush-hour commuter rail train failed in mid-run, and needed help from another train to get passengers where they were going.

Thursday night, a Boston-to-Fitchburg locomotive had an electronic circuit board failure that crippled the train. A second train had to push it from behind. That commute took three times longer than it should have.

It is remarkably similar to Monday’s trouble on a Boston-to-Worcester train took four hours instead of 80 minutes.

The MBCR, the company paid to run the commuter rail for the MBTA, generally blames weather for its poor winter performance.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports.

In numbers released to WBZ Friday, the MBCR says 76 percent of its trains were on time in February, up a bit from 73 percent in January. The performance is well below what the company, and commuters, would like to see. The MBCR blames almost all their January and February troubles on the weather.

Just a few days into the month of March, the MBCR says it’s close to 90 percent on-time on all lines. The trouble for so many commuters, though, is that the other 10 percent of trains can be incredibly, frustratingly late.

The long-term fix is to purchase newer and better equipment. Twenty locomotives will soon be built and shipped here from Idaho, but they all won’t arrive until 2013.

In the meantime, the MBTA has brought in five used but refurbished locomotives from Maryland. The original plan was to lease them until the twenty brand new ones come in. But Friday, WBZ learned that these five are in such good condition that the T is considering buying them outright if they perform well on the job. They could be in service as soon as next week.

The T says the price-tag for the lease, or eventual purchase, is still being negotiated.

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