The addition of two new express trains along the Worcester-to-Boston commuter rail line was welcome news for Surabhi Kumar, who said she uses the MBTA train service nearly every day to commute between Worcester and Framingham.
Kumar said the new express trains heading eastbound in the morning and westbound in the afternoon will definitely help cut down her commute time, and she hopes more express runs will be added.
But like other commuters at Framingham Station last week, she wants even more options.
“I think they should increase the frequency of the trains, especially during rush hours,” she said on Thursday morning, after getting off the train from Worcester. More trains between 7 and 9 a.m., as well as after 5 p.m., would help her get to work, and home, on time, she said.
Other commuters called for more trains during the middle of the day, when missing a train could mean waiting hours for the next one.
‘If I go out for a meeting, and if it ends late, I have to wait an hour or two. There tends to be a midafternoon gap where there’s no service. It’s not a good gap to fall into.’
“I understand that you can’t run a train every 10 minutes,’’ said Ashland resident Jeff Levy. “But when you have to wait an hour or two — that doesn’t work so well.”
Trains have been added to the line in recent months, and though the addition of the express trains starting Monday will not fill those non-rush-hour gaps, they will add some flexibility to commuters’ lives.
The morning express train will depart Worcester’s Union Station at 6:20 a.m., stop in Framingham at 7 a.m., and then pause at Back Bay before arriving at South Station at 7:43 a.m. For returning riders, the new express will depart South Station at 5:35 p.m., stop at Back Bay at 5:41 p.m. and Framingham at 6:13 p.m., and arrive in Worcester at 6:43 p.m.
The scheduling changes means some later departure times for trains leaving South Station: the 7:38 a.m. outbound will now depart at 7:45 a.m., and the 5:35 p.m. outbound will depart at 5:40 p.m. No other changes to the schedule, and no changes to weekend service, are planned.
The express trains were added thanks to an agreement reached in October with CSX Corp. that transferred ownership of 92 miles of the freight company’s tracks, including 45 miles along the Framingham/Worcester line, to the state.
As a result, six trains — three inbound and three outbound — were added to the line, totaling 31 stops between Worcester and Boston.
Through its agreement with CSX, Massachusetts now controls maintenance of the right of way and the dispatching transition so that all trains on the Framingham/Worcester line are dispatched from MBTA facilities. State officials said demand for the line is expected to increase 30 percent by 2030 due to the enhanced service.
The announcement of the new express trains was initially made April 18 by Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail officials. But Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, along with Richard Davey, secretary of the state’s Department of Transportation, and Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, made the more formal announcement Thursday afternoon at Union Station.
“New opportunities are beginning to emerge for commuters and businesses in Worcester and surrounding communities,” Murray, a former mayor of Worcester, said at the ceremony. He said he plans to ride Monday’s inaugural 6:20 a.m. express train to Boston.
“With the launch of this special express train,” Murray said, “commuters traveling from central and MetroWest communities to and from Boston during rush hour traffic will have a more efficient transportation option. I encourage commuters to take advantage of this new service.”
Petty said the new express trains will reduce commuting time and create greater transportation opportunities east and west.
“These express trains, along with the further expansion of MBTA service to Union Station, are a vital component to enhancing economic development progress in our city,’’ said the mayor. “The transposition hub here at Union Station is a crucial component to the development of downtown Worcester, and to serving the transportation needs of our residents.”
The Patrick-Murray administration has invested almost $1 billion in the state’s rail system through grants, public funds, and private sector capital, according to state officials.
The investment has improved service but commuters want even more flexibility.
Jeff Francis of Dorchester said he had little trouble with the existing schedule, which he used to attend a week of job training in Framingham.
“The schedule has been convenient for me,” he said, but added that the times between trains are too far apart during certain hours of the day.
“I missed the Framingham to Boston train yesterday, and I had to wait an hour,” he said. The answer, he said, is not necessarily an express train with fewer stops, but more frequent service.
The scheduling changes may not be much of a help to some riders, such as Douglas Tetrault of Boston, who said the midday gaps in service are an inconvenience.
Tetrault said he uses the commuter rail five to six times a month to go from Boston to Framingham for business. On Wednesday afternoon, Tetrault found himself and a handful of other riders waiting in Framingham for about an hour until the 4:05 p.m. train arrived to take him home.
“If I go out for a meeting, and if it ends late, I have to wait an hour or two,” Tetrault said. “There tends to be a mid-afternoon gap where there’s no service. It’s not a good gap to fall into.”
Boston-bound riders leaving Framingham contend with gaps in service during the day, with trains departing at 9:11 a.m., 11:31 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:51 p.m., 4:06 p.m. and 5:36 p.m. Similar gaps exist for Worcester-bound travelers.
But adding service — like the express trains — could mean more people will take the train.
Bob Whittle of Worcester said he used to ride the train every day. Then he got a car, which he said was far more convenient for commuting to his job in Natick. More frequent, express service might give him reason to leave the car in Worcester more often, however.
“The more the better,” he said.