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MBTA limits subway speed to 25 miles per hour systemwide after DPU safety findings on Red Line

A Red Line train arrive at Fields Corner Station in Boston, MA on February 23, 2023.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority put a 25 mile per hour maximum speed restriction in place across its Red, Orange, Blue, and Green Lines starting Thursday night, the agency announced around 10 p.m.

The systemwide speed restriction is the result of findings following a recent site visit to the Red Line between Ashmont and Savin Hill stations by the Department of Public Utilities, the agency said.

Earlier Thursday, MBTA chief safety officer Ronald Ester told board members that on March 6, MBTA officials joined DPU officials to review track conditions between Ashmont and Savin Hill stations, and found the need for several corrective actions, some of them immediate, including: “Priority one track conditions, third rail insulators, electrical access boxes on the right of way, headlight operations within the subway or within the tunnel, [personal protective equipment] compliance, and safety briefings,” he said.

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“We’re working with the DPU and have identified a series of immediate actions that, once corrected, will make the system safer and more reliable,” he said.

The MBTA tweeted at 10:19 p.m. that the systemwide speed restriction of 10 to 25 miles per hour is effective immediately “out of an abundance of caution.”

“The MBTA remains committed to operating the transit system in the safest manner possible,” the agency said. “Riders should plan for additional travel time while we work to address these findings. We apologize for the inconvenience and will provide more information as it becomes available.”

The MBTA only began publishing slow zone data last month after declining to provide its full list of speed restrictions to the public for months. That data shows that slow zones covered 7.5 percent of the T’s subway tracks in February, up from 6.5 percent in January. Slow zones are areas of track where the MBTA operates trains at reduced speeds because of track defects and other problems.

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A 10 mile per hour slow zone was in place in January and February on the Red Line southbound at Fields Corner Station, data show.

Last year, the Federal Transit Administration directed the MBTA to come up with a plan to repair its tracks and lift its slow zones more efficiently, noting that some slow zones had been in place for years. It also directed the DPU, the MBTA’s state safety oversight agency, to enhance its technical capacity and enforcement capabilities.

The slow down of the entire system announced Thursday comes as the T is operating reduced subway service. The MBTA put those service cuts in place last June and said they would last for the summer as the agency addressed a shortage of dispatchers. But the cuts have remained in place now, and the T said last month it does not have enough operators or trains to restore service.

The MBTA said it will provide more information about the systemwide speed restriction at a press conference at 10 a.m. on Friday.


Taylor Dolven can be reached at taylor.dolven@globe.com. Follow her @taydolven.