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Rookie operator blamed for Green Line derailment in Newton

A train rested on the tracks at Riverside Station in Newton on Wednesday. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The Riverside trolley that jumped its tracks early Wednesday morning was the fourth derailment on the MBTA’s Green Line alone this year, adding to the woes of an agency already under fire for its safety record and condition of its aging equipment.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials said an error by a recently hired trolley driver caused the car to derail at the Riverside Station in Newton around 6 a.m., disrupting the morning commute for D line passengers for several hours. At the time, there was only one passenger on the train and no injuries were reported, according to MBTA spokesman Joseph Pesaturo.


“The preliminary investigation shows the train’s operator did not have the signal system’s authorization to proceed,’’ the T said in a statement. “By not allowing the track switch to be properly aligned, the second car of the train came off the rails.”

The operator has been “removed from service,” the T said.

The T has also said operator error was behind the derailment of another Riverside Green Line car in June, injuring 11 people. Another Riverside train derailed in February, on the day of the parade for the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots, and in late March, a Green Line car that was not in service also came off a side track on the B line.

The agency remains deep in a months-long effort to repair the extensive damage on the Red Line from the derailment of a train outside JKF/UMass Station on June 11.

The incident has cast a harsh spotlight on the MBTA’s record. In the five-year period from 2014 to 2018, the T had the second-highest number of derailments among metro transit systems in the country, with 43, behind only New Orleans. The T has said more than one-third of those incidents involved maintenance vehicles, which do not carry passengers.


The Red Line derailment in particularly has generated a cascade of criticism at the T, with many commuters on the south side of the subway line complaining of erratic service and uncomfortably jammed cars.

Officials are targeting October for restoration of all of the signals along the affected sections of the Red Line, but said that subway riders should expect to see some improvements in travel and wait times before then.

On the D branch of the Green Line Wednesday morning, the T ran buses between Riverside and Newton Highlands stations before regular service resumed around noon.

“I want to apologize to the Green Line customers whose commutes were disrupted this morning,” T general manager Steve Poftak said in a statement. “We will complete the formal investigation as soon as possible and take corrective action if needed. We can and we must do better.”

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.