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New safety panel will review MBTA operations following derailments on Red and Green lines

The June 11 derailment of a Red Line train near JFK/UMass Station was the latest in a string of such incidents.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

MBTA officials announced Monday that a panel of national transit officials will do an “independent and transparent” review of the system’s overall safety following a Red Line derailment that caused massive delays earlier this month.

The Safety Review Panel, which will include a former US secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood, aims to look at current practices, past incidents, and incorporating “safety into every facet of the T’s culture,” Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials said, noting they will also be charged with determining whether the system should revise its standards, given the age of its “assets.”

“I think this is a real opportunity for the MBTA to get a critical survey of our systems and processes around safety and also drive toward forming a program where we are executing on best practices in rail safety,” said general manager Steve Poftak at Monday’s Fiscal and Management Control Board meeting.


Separately, Governor Charlie Baker and state transportation officials on Tuesday are expected to unveil an accelerated capital plan for the MBTA.

Monday’s announcement came nearly two weeks after a Red Line train derailed near JFK/UMass Station in Dorchester, damaging the signal system and prompting widespread delays. T officials have said delays will continue at least until Labor Day.

Also on Monday, the Green Line partially shut down during the morning commute because of a wire problem.

Poftak said T officials have ruled out operator error, speed, foul play, and track infrastructure as reasons for the Red Line derailment. They have sent train components out for inspection, as well, he said.

“We have sent those components out for metallurgical analysis,” Poftak said. “That process is going to take approximately 60 days to come to resolution.”

Poftak said that while it awaits updates, the MBTA has conducted a “rigorous inspection” of the vehicle type involved in the accident.


“We have expedited ultrasonic inspection of the vehicle parts that we believe may have played a factor in this,” Poftak said. “And I’m pleased to report that we have found no systemic issues.”

He also reiterated the MBTA’s estimate that reduced service would continue on the Red Line until September. The line usually runs 13 to 14 trains per hour.

“We’ve gotten up to 10 trains per hour,” Poftak said. “We anticipate that this service will continue through Labor Day.”

Replacing the damaged signal system will take “at least a year,” he said.

The June 11 derailment came two days after a Green Line train went off the tracks near Kenmore Station. The MBTA ruled that operator error caused the Green Line derailment and said the two incidents were unrelated.

Monday’s updates came one week before the MBTA is scheduled to raise fares 6 percent. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, City Councilor Michelle Wu, and others have been outspoken with their calls for the MBTA to postpone the increase. MBTA officials, however, have said it’s too late to make changes.

“This was a very, very discouraging incident, really tough, tough, tough situation we’ve placed our commuters in, but the response of the T personnel — despite the circumstances and the age of the equipment — has been sensational,” said Joseph Aiello, chairman of the authority’s board.

Aiello said the Safety Review Panel will start work this week, but it’s going to be “organizational first.”

In addition to LaHood, Carolyn Flowers, former acting administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, and Carmen Bianco, former president of New York City Transit, will serve on the panel.


Officials also said the panel will work with state and federal authorities including the Federal Transit Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, and Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities as they review the MBTA’s practices.

“Our first priority will always be ensuring the safety of the MBTA system, and the FMCB’s efforts to assemble this panel of well-regarded experts to lead an independent review is an important next step,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement. “Our administration looks forward to reviewing any recommendations made by the Safety Review Panel.”

Aidan Ryan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @AidanRyanNH.