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Derailment Fuels Frustration on Fitchburg Line

November 29, 2018

A disabled MBTA commuter train sits on the tracks as workers inspect and repair the broken wheel in Belmont Tuesday. Boston Herald photo / Faith Ninivaggi Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

Local passengers and city officials are voicing a lot of the same commuter rail frustrations after a train on the Fitchburg line derailed Tuesday morning.

“It’s almost to be expected. You expect it to be horrible, so it’s not super surprising,” said Jason Permatteo, a technology salesman from Leominster who had been a passenger on the inbound train that experienced what MBTA officials called an “upright derailment” at about 8 a.m Tuesday near Belmont.

“Just before we got into Waltham, I think, I heard a piston-almost sound and then the train slowed down and they said, ‘Oh, we have a brake problem.’ And about 10 minutes later it was a broken axle. ... I guess they said later it was an actual derailment. So then we sat and we waited for our rescue train. We sat there a good two hours,” said Permatteo.

Roughly 800 people were on the affected train, but they were not the only ones inconvenienced by the delay.

Thao Nguyen, a Boston resident who was waiting for an outbound train in Porter Square Tuesday morning, said she missed a class she was supposed to attend at Fitchburg State University.

“I think the MBTA is generally not very good about reporting delays or really anything that’s happening,” she said.

Nguyen, who waited close to an hour for her train to arrive at Porter Square Tuesday, said she was completely unaware that the reason why her train was late was because of a derailment.

“I was already late to my class so I just decided to turn around and go home,” she said.

Rob Logan, Jr. of Ayer was also on his way to Fitchburg Tuesday morning.

“I had to come out for a court date that I almost missed but luckily I was able to get a ride,” he said. “This whole thing makes me a little nervous riding it now, but I’m fortunately only usually riding a few stops.”

Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale said Wednesday that he had spoken with MBTA officials about the incident and was told that the cause of the derailment is under review.

“They say that most of the people who were on the train didn’t even know when it happened,” said DiNatale. “Apparently the axle on the wheel was broken and they told everyone they could make other arrangements or pick up another train.”

DiNatale said a wheel separated from the train’s axle, though the reason why is not known. According to information he was told by the MBTA, the train has been removed from service while the derailment is being investigated.

“I think the important thing here is that no one got hurt,” said DiNatale. “They’re going to analyze and determine what happened. I’m sure things can be prevented, but maybe this was just a malfunction due to wear and tear.”

State Rep. Natalie Higgins of Leominster, a city which also has a stop on the Fitchburg line, said Tuesday’s derailment was an example of the state needing to do a better job of investing in its public transportation system.

“Our commuter rail and regional transit authorities have been left behind for too long,” she said. “This is a matter of equity for central Massachusetts and western Massachusetts residents to be able to move around their communities and the state.”

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