Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail Line Shutting Down on Weekends This Summer

Safety equipment will be installed during the closures.

The commuter rail is having a rough week. After a rash of canceled trains due to train defects, Keolis, the commuter rail operator, is shutting down the Newpuryport/Rockport line on weekends from July 8 to September 30. If you want to head to the beach those weekends, you might have to rent a car.

The shutdown will allow a new system called positive train control, or PTC, to be installed. This system combines GPS, wireless radio, and computers that monitor trains. As reported by the Newburyport Daily News, the system stops trains from colliding, derailing, or speeding on the tracks. During these repairs, the entire line will be shut down, nor will there be alternative bus service between stations available.

The line was already scheduled to be shut down from July 5 to August 15 to repair the Beverly bridge. These repairs will occur during the week and there will be shuttle service from Beverly to Salem and train service from Salem to Boston.

A plan providing for the installation of PTC on all commuter rail lines by 2018 has been submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration and calls for full PTC implementation by December 31, 2020. In order to complete these renovations by the deadline, commuter rail branches will have to totally shut down service. According to MBTA chief administrator Brian Shortsleeve, the transit service will be slapped with a fine of $105,000 every day the PTC is not in place after the deadline.

Gloucester City Hall will host a public meeting on April 26 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the weekend shutdown as well as repairs on the Beverly bridge. Keolis, PTC representatives, and Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority representatives will be present at the meeting. Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester expects there to be two more public meetings regarding the shutdown.

For three days in a row mechanical issues have delayed and canceled trains, according to the Boston Globe. On Friday, a train on the Framingham line was canceled and one on the Middleboro line was reportedly disabled because of the mechanical issues. Out of 23 days in March, only four had the required trains for regular service.