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Lowell line commuter rail service resumes after rush-hour suspension

A crane stabilized a second crane after service on the MBTA commuter rail’s Lowell Line was suspended Thursday afternoon between North Station and Anderson/Woburn Station because of a mechanical failure of a drill rig near the tracks.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

UPDATE: Normal service is resuming on the commuter rail’s Lowell Line, according to an MBTA tweet sent at 6:40 p.m.

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The MBTA on Thursday had another one of those days when several seemingly isolated mishaps combined to produce a commuting nightmare, adding to a summer of service disruptions across the system that has increased pressure on Beacon Hill to act more quickly and forcefully to update the aging public transit network.

The brunt of the interruptions on Thursday fell on commuters out of North Station, with three of its four main branches suffering cancellations or severe delays during the evening trip home. First an equipment malfunction shut down the Lowell line for several hours and forced the cancellation of some Haverhill trains; then a problem with the drawbridge between Salem and Beverly caused severe delays for trains to Rockport and Newburyport.


In Somerville, a drill being used in the construction of the Green Line extension forced the T to suspend trains along the adjacent Lowell line. The T told riders to take the Orange Line to Wellington and board buses from there. Some passengers reported that their buses received police escorts between Wellington and Woburn.

Other north side commuter rail lines appeared to be operating at or near schedule Thursday, but Lowell line commuters were out of luck.Jason Tuohey/Globe Staff

At North Station, commuters expressed frustration at the latest incidents to hit the MBTA.

“I left work early today,” Michael Cogliabese said. “I thought I was going to get home early; apparently not.”

Another rider, Laura Zeugner, called the commuting mishap “a very large inconvenience.”

“One of the nice things about the commuter rail, they’re usually exempt from things like this,” she said.

Two outbound Haverhill trains from North Station were also canceled Thursday because of disruptions on the Lowell line, while one inbound Haverhill train was also canceled for the same reason.

The rig in Somerville was being used to help construct a new bridge over Broadway as part of the billion-dollar extension of the Green Line, which will share portions of a rail corridor with commuter trains. The mechanical failure left the rig “immobile near the commuter rail tracks,” the T said.


The agency brought in a crane to stabilize and remove the drill rig, and by 6:30 p.m. the T said service along the Lowell line had resumed.

A drill rig was stabilized by a crane along the commuter rail tracks in Somerville. Barry Chin/Globe staff/Globe Staff

Meanwhile, delays continued into the evening on the Newburyport and Rockport lines because of a “drawbridge issue” that prevented trains from crossing the Danvers River and forced the T to run shuttle buses between Salem and Beverly. Multiple trains had delays of more than 30 minutes.

The T announced that the bridge problem had been resolved around 7:30 p.m., but cautioned commuters that delays could continue.

The MBTA’s subway system in particular has experienced a string of incidents, most notably the June 11 derailment on the Red Line that badly damaged its signaling system and has caused weeks of delays as trains operate at lower speeds. The T has been slowly rebuilding the system since, but doesn’t expect the Red Line to return to normal service until October.

That disruption came just days before the T imposed a fare hike on the subway and commuter rail lines, leading to protests from riders and lobbying by activists and some legislators to increase funding for the system to speed improvements.

That frustration was again evident among riders Thursday at North Station.

“There are plenty of other countries that don’t have this issue,” said commuter Chris Chung as trains were canceled. “I spent four months in Japan and the trains never broke down. Someone or some people aren’t doing their jobs or there’s not enough funding.”


Earlier in August a fire on the tracks along the Orange Line caused service to be suspended. That came one day after passengers riding the Green Line between North Station and Lechmere were diverted to shuttle buses. And a Riverside trolley that jumped its tracks in early August was the fourth derailment on the Green Line alone this year.

In July, a power failure on the Blue Line disrupted the morning commutes of hundreds of riders.

Danny McDonald can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.