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Starts & Stops

Commuter rail riders now getting better updates on their trains

A new rail service between New Haven, Conn., and Springfield will rely on MBTA commuter coaches when it launches this spring. Closer to home, commuter rail riders near Boston will be getting better updates on the locations of their trains. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Some old MBTA commuter rail cars will soon be given a new lease on life.

A rail service between New Haven and Springfield will rely on 16 MBTA commuter coaches when it launches this spring, officials said.

While the Nutmeg State will eventually replace the cars with new ones, the coaches will be in service for at least three years under the terms of a lease with Massachusetts.

Richard Andreski, Connecticut’s public transportation chief, said the state looked to its neighbor for help supplying cars because the route runs through Western Massachusetts.

Amtrak, which is operating some of the trips on the service, will also use its own vehicles on the line.


Service is scheduled to begin in May, with a round trip costing $25.50. The trip takes about 80 minutes each way.

Massachusetts officials agreed to lease the cars because they have long been out of service, said Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Under terms of the deal, Connecticut is paying Massachusetts about $1.3 million a year, although the first year includes an additional payment of more than $400,000 to compensate the MBTA for some mechanical work to prepare the vehicles.

Connecticut is handling other refurbishing work on the cars before they are used, such as retrofitting bathrooms on four coaches to make them accessible for passengers with disabilities. The state is also supplying its own locomotives to guide the trains.

George Casey, an official with the union that represents the MBTA’s commuter rail workers, wondered why the MBTA doesn’t keep these cars and add them to commuter trains to help ease overcrowding.

But Goddard said these out-of-service coaches are not part of the fleet of 420 available to commuter rail operator Keolis Commuter Services. It would cost roughly half as much to refurbish the cars as it would to buy new ones, she said.


She said Massachusetts will benefit from the partnership in a few ways: Springfield residents will get the new service; the state will get revenue from the lease; and when the lease is up and Connecticut returns the coaches, they’ll be usable again.

Tracking to a T

As for commuter trains close to home, riders may now have an easier time figuring out where they are.

The MBTA said it has upgraded its train-tracking technology to keep passengers using transit apps better informed about when their train will arrive. The new system uses information that refreshes every 10 to 45 seconds, general manager Luis Ramirez said. Previously, the information updated less frequently, up to every two minutes.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at