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Commuter rail car detaches from train in middle of trip

Holly Lilly

By Globe Staff 

It’s been a rough week for the MBTA. First the subway system, particularly the Red Line, was plagued by signal failures that caused repeated delays. Then, a commuter rail train apparently lost a car.

On Wednesday evening, the rear car on the 6:45 p.m. to Newburyport disconnected from the rest of the set, according to Holly Lilly, a Salem resident who was on the train. She posted a photo of the disconnected cars on Twitter shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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Keolis, the private company that operates the commuter rail for the MBTA, said there were no passengers in the car that disconnected, and that safety systems kicked in to stop both the train and wayward car.

“This is an exceptionally unusual incident and is under investigation by the Keolis and MBTA safety departments, including detailed inspections of the train set involved and track to determine the root cause,” the company said in a statement.

MBTA Deputy General Manager Jeff Gonneville said “the train set involved is out of service as we await the results of ongoing investigation. The MBTA will take all actions necessary to ensure the safety of our customers and staff.”

According to Lilly, the incident occurred shortly after the train left North Station, somewhere between Chelsea and the River Works station in Lynn.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve been commuting for years,” Lilly told the Globe.

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Lilly said the train sat still for roughly 40 minutes before it was reconnected. Passengers were then brought to the Lynn station, where they boarded a new train. Lilly arrived home at about 8:15, roughly an hour later than usual.

It was not immediately clear how often MBTA train cars have decoupled, but similar incidents have been reported in the past in Washington, DC, New Jersey, and the United Kingdom.

At the time of the incident Wednesday, the MBTA issued an alert that the Newburyport line experienced a “mechanical issue” that caused delays.


Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.