The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority decided to spend $115 million on 20 new locomotives for its commuter rail lines. They say the purchase should improve on-time performance of trains that daily carry about 70,000 people to and from Boston, daily.
The new locomotives will allow the T to retire large portion of its aging locomotives, which are blamed for about half of all service delays on the commuter rail lines. About 14 % of all commuter rail trips were late during the first half of 2010.
This purchase, which has been delayed for years because of cost concerns, and also because of disputes over whether the trains would be built in the United States, will be financed by a loan taken out by the T. But agency officials said they expect the federal government to reimburse 80 % of the cost of the purchase.
The new locomotives, T officials said, will be more environmentally friendly than the existing fleet, burning less fuel and emitting fewer pollutants. The T had initially hoped to buy 38 new locomotives, but the process dragged on so long that the agency can no longer afford to buy that many.
The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail runs 476 combined inbound and outbound trips a day, about three-fifths of those along South Station lines. Riders regularly complain about the trains’ occasional failure to meet posted schedules; which the MBTA has blamed on everything from medical emergencies to construction projects. Aging engines have increasingly been cited as the cause in recent years.
More than half of MBCR's existing 80 locomotives are near or beyond their expected lifespan of 25 years. All of the locomotives date at least to the 1990s, and 18 were built between 1978 and 1980. They use three-quarters of its locomotive fleet on a given weekday.
The new locomotives approved yesterday by the board will be built by the Idaho-based MotivePower Inc., using parts manufactured by General Electric. Future warranty work and a parts inventory will be handled in Worcester through a partnership between MotivePower and the Providence and Worcester Railroad, a freight company. The new locomotives will take three years to build and are expected to arrive between spring and fall 2013.