Framingham/Worcester Line

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Union Station, Worcester MA.jpg
Front facade of Worcester Union Station
Type Commuter rail line
System Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Status Operating
Locale Central Massachusetts
Termini Boston South Station
Worcester Union Station
Stations 17
Daily ridership 16,293 (2013 weekday average boardings)[1]
Opened 1834 as the Boston and Worcester Railroad
Owner MassDOT (Back Bay to Riverside}
MBTA (Riverside to Framingham)
MassDOT (Framingham to Worcester)[1]
Operator(s) Keolis North America
Line length 44.3 miles (71.3 km)[2]
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map

The Framingham/Worcester Line of the MBTA Commuter Rail system runs west from Boston, Massachusetts to Worcester, Massachusetts through the MetroWest region, serving 17 station stops in Boston, Newton, Wellesley, Natick, Framingham, Ashland, Southborough, Westborough, Grafton, and Worcester. The third-longest and second-busiest line on the system, the Framingham/Worcester Line is plagued by poor track conditions, interference from freight trains, and a number of non-handicapped-accessible stations. Service on the line is a mix of local and express trains serving Worcester plus short-turn Framingham locals.

The Framingham/Worcester Line was one of the first commuter rail lines, with daily commuter-oriented service to West Newton beginning in 1834. Originally the Boston and Worcester Railroad, service has been operated by the Boston and Albany Railroad, New York Central, Penn Central, and since 1964 by Boston and Maine Railroad, Amtrak, and the MBCR until 2014 under contract to the MBTA. Since 2014 service has been operated by Keolis North America. In 1975 the line was cut back to Framingham, but service returned to Worcester in 1994 with four infill stations added between 2000 and 2002.

After purchasing the Framingham-Worcester trackage from CSX in 2012, the MBTA has begun adding service to the outer section of the line and performing track work to increase speeds and reliability. Two new stations are planned: Boston Landing in Brighton opening in 2016, and West Station in Beacon Park Yard opening in 2020. DMU local service is also planned for the inner part of the line.[3]


This 1881-built depot at Auburndale, designed by H. H. Richardson, was torn down in 1961 to make room for the Massachusetts Turnpike
Grafton station, with large ramps and mini-high platforms for handicapped accessibility, is typical of the west-of-Framingham stations built around 2000

Originally built in 1834 as the Boston and Worcester Railroad, the line was later part of the Boston and Albany Railroad and New York Central Railroad systems. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority acquired the tracks from Newton to Back Bay Station[4] in order to construct the Boston Extension of the Massachusetts Turnpike from the Route 128 circumferential highway to the then-elevated Central Artery in downtown Boston. Construction ran from 1962 to 1964, and reduced the railway to two tracks.

The New York Central was merged into Penn Central Transportation in 1968, which went bankrupt in 1970. Amtrak was created in 1971 to run intercity rail service; since 1975, it has operated the Lake Shore Limited on the Boston-to-Albany tracks.

On January 27, 1973 the MBTA acquired the remainder of the tracks east of Framingham, and subsidized passenger transit between Framingham and Boston. Commuter rail service between Worcester and Framingham was discontinued October 27, 1975, as the state did not subsidize it. The trackage on the western segment was inherited by Conrail in 1976, which returned to profitability in the 1980s. After a corporate breakup in 1999, CSX Transportation became the owner of the Worcester-to-Framingham segment.

In the late 1980s, the Orange Line was rerouted into parallel tracks sharing the Framingham Line's right of way between Back Bay Station and the portal to the Washington Street Tunnel.

1994-2002: Westward expansion[edit]

MBTA commuter rail service expanded to Worcester on September 26, 1994 with limited rush-hour-only service. Off-peak service was added beginning on December 14, 1996. Worcester Union Station underwent a major renovation in 2000, and in 2006 the city's main bus terminal was co-located at the train station. Infill stations at Ashland, Southborough, Westborough, and Grafton were added in 2000 and 2002.[4]

2003-2011: Ownership and performance problems[edit]

CSX freight trains in Beacon Park Yard in Allston in 2010
Empty Beacon Park Yard in 2013

For a variety of reasons, the line had some of the worst on-time performance in the MBTA system for several years. While state agencies including the MBTA owned the line out to Framingham, CSX Transportation owned from Framingham to Worcester and ran frequent freight trains as far east as Beacon Park Yard in Allston. CSX then dispatched (controlled signals) on the line from their operations base in Selkirk, New York, resulting in low priority for passenger trains.[5] Conflicts with freight trains, ongoing track work, and an increase of passenger load of about 40% since opening were all blamed for the poor on-time performance, as were new federal speed regulations that went into effect in 2005.[6]

In 2007, pessimistic that CSX would ever sell the line, the state Executive Office of Transportation began studying alternatives to improve service. Possibilities included adding interlockings or additional tracks to the line, or even running service from Worcester to North Station via Ayer over the Pan Am Railways Worcester Branch (former Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad) and the Fitchburg Line.[7]

In October 2007, only 48.4% of trains ran on time (no more than 1 minute early or 5 minutes late), improving to 69.3% in January 2008 after CSX and MBCR officials began meeting daily.[6] On February 18, 2008, a new schedule went into effect, intended to more accurately reflect the run time on the line.[8] By August 2009, actual on-time performance was at 82%.[9]

In January 2008, the Framingham/Worcester Line became the first in the MBTA system to offer wi-fi service aboard the trains. The service was expanded system-wide after a test period, but the Worcester Line was chosen for the pilot phase in part to compensate for low on-time performance, as well as to test the service across the line's varied terrain.[10]

In September 2009, after several years of negotiations, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts completed an agreement to purchase the tracks from Framingham to Worcester, with the actual transfer originally expected in 2011.[11][12] Earlier phases of the agreement had allowed the addition of five weekday trains to Worcester.[11]

2012-current: Service expansions[edit]

A train passes the planned Boston Landing site
The former Westborough train station, built in 1899, is now home to business offices
Low platforms, like this one at West Newton, are not handicapped accessible. They cause slow boarding on a large section of the line, as passengers must climb steps to enter train cars.

In June 2012, New Balance announced plans to build a new station stop at their new development in Allston-Brighton. Boston Landing was originally to open in 2014, but has since been delayed to 2016.[13][14]

In July 2012, the MBTA announced plans to add additional service on the line as CSX moves freight transload operations from Beacon Park Yard in Allston to a new yard in East Worcester that does not interfere with passenger operations.[15] Three additional weekday Boston-Worcester round trips were added on October 29, 2012 after the October 4 signing of the deed that transferred ownership of the Framingham-Worcester section to the MBTA.[16] A rush-hour express serving Worcester was added on April 29, 2013.[17] The ultimate goal was originally for 20 Worcester round trips by October 2013, up from 12.5 round trips before the service increases; however this was pushed back by delays in the rebuilding of Yawkey station and the delivery of the new MPI HSP46 locomotives and bilevel passenger cars.[18]

By early 2013, Beacon Park was largely vacated except for the locomotive maintenance facility, leaving only occasional freight service east of Framingham. MBCR took over dispatching of the line from CSX in August 2013, meaning that passenger trains are now given full priority over freight trains.[19] The dispatching changeover brings other benefits for passenger service: MBCR has greater flexibility to deal with minor emergencies affecting operations, to communicate directly with train crews, and to dispatch extra trains to cover for a late or stalled train. Blanket heat-related speed restrictions were intended to be eliminated, limiting delays even on hotter summer days.[19]

A series of public comment hearings in 2013 were held to determine schedules. Implementation of the new schedules was delayed because the completion of Yawkey station's rehabilitation and expansion was delayed.[20] The expansion included installation of a second track, crucial to the service expansion. The increase to 20 weekday and 9 weekend round trips to Worcester took place on March 10, 2014.[21][22][23] The MBTA has long been planning to speed travel times on the line by adding a second main track through Beacon Park Yard - the only single-track section of the line.[24] The former second track through the yard was turned into a yard lead with no through service in the 1950s.

In November 2013, MassDOT announced plans to spend $15 million through 2014 and 2015 to improve travel times on the line.[20] Some of the work involves heating and cutting quarter-mile rail segments to eliminate heat kinks. The promised reduction in heat-related speed restrictions has not yet occurred due to the poor condition of the tracks; the work to reduce them started in 2014 with $1.2 million in work between Worcester and Grafton, but will not be complete until 2016.[25]

In September 2014, MassDOT announced plans to build the multimodal West Station in Beacon Park Yard as a transfer point between local DMU service and mainline locomotive-hauled commuter rail service. The $25 million station will be constructed simultaneously with a $260 million reconfiguration of the Mass Pike through Beacon Park Yard and will open in 2020.[26]

October 2015, MassDOT announced the addition of "Bullet Trains" that would run express from Worcester to Boston once in the morning and express from Boston to Worcester in the pm hour. This is the first of its kind of train run for the line which will shave off 30 minutes one way which normally take 1 hour 30 minutes through the local 16 stop line. The addition of express trains (Trains that would bypass stops from West Natick to Yawkey) and added service was also announced. [27]


All stations from Yawkey east and West Natick west are handicapped accessible; those in between are not. Boston Landing and West Station will both be constructed with handicapped accessible platforms. See also MBTA accessibility.

Line Problems[edit]

Heat Restrictions: The Framingham/Worcester Line faces many problems that include heat restrictions, (From the website) "The track was built and maintained by previous railroads, which had different design and maintenance standards than the MBTA. And when the MBTA took control of the rail line in 2012, there were no heat records available about the original installation of the rail, which helps engineers decide if the rail is safe from heat kinks."[28] When it is anywhere from approximately 85 degrees and above trains can be anywhere from 10-50+ minutes delayed as trains go roughly no more than 30mph. To solve the problem "de-stressing" started to occur in late July of 2014 and if on schedule should end sometime in 2016.[29]
Winter of 2015: Due to the snow storms of 2015 many trains on the branch were canceled making it very difficult for students and workers to get in and out of Boston. During the worst of the storm 24 trips were canceled.[30] All express trains were canceled during the months of February and March making travel difficult for Ashland thorough Worcester commuters during morning and afternoon rush hour with added delays on-top of weather delays. Train sets were also running short causing trains to be running over capacity and not allowing passengers to board.
Low Platforms: Not all stations have high elevated platforms (7) and all other station with high elevated platforms only have a small section of high elevated platforms (The 7 non-elevated stations are non handicap). This causes a problem with boarding during peak rush hour times by making conductors lower steps and passengers to take extended time to board. To fix slow boarding on the line, during off peak-hour trips signs read "board here" making passengers board trains at the high elevated platforms. The Framingham/Worcester line is one of the few lines to have such problem and the only line to have stations with no section of elevated platforms. There are no plans on fixing this issue however stations have been and will continue be renovated.[citation needed]
Added Stations: Due to the expansion of both "West Station" and "Boston Landing" many current commuters are upset and frustrated. With the adding of the stations issues with commute times will arise. Currently a local train from either Boston to Worcester or Worcester to Boston can be roughly one hour thirty minutes while an express train can be roughly 60 minutes. Two main issues will arise 1. added boarding time among both stations with passengers and 2. the start and stop of the locomotives which can accelerate and decelerate at slow times[discuss].[citation needed]

Station listing[edit]

This listing shows only those stations which have seen service since 1964. For previously closed stations, see the full list of Boston & Albany Railroad stations.

Miles[1] City Station Opening date Connections and notes
0.0 Boston Handicapped/disabled access South Station 1899 Red Line and all south side Commuter Rail lines
Amtrak Acela Express, Lake Shore Limited, and Northeast Regional
1.2 Handicapped/disabled access Back Bay 1960s Replaced Trinity Place(westward) / Huntington Av.(eastward) due to I-90 construction
Orange Line
splits from Providence/Stoughton Line/Franklin Line/Needham Line
Amtrak Acela Express, Lake Shore Limited, and Northeast Regional
2.5 Handicapped/disabled access Yawkey April 29, 1988 Only operated during games at Fenway Park until January 2, 2001, when it opened to daily commuter traffic.
Rebuilt with full-length high-level platforms and accessible street-level connections; new station opened March 10, 2014
Former Brookline Junction with Highland Branch
3.8 Handicapped/disabled access West Station 2020 (planned)[26] Connection with Grand Junction Branch at Beacon Park Yard
4.7 Handicapped/disabled access Boston Landing 2016 (planned)[14]
8.1 Newton Newtonville MBTA Bus: 59, 553, 554, 556
9.1 West Newton April 16, 1834 MBTA Bus: 553, 554
10.2 Auburndale MBTA Bus: 505, 558
10.9 Riverside closed October 27, 1977; separate from Green Line station
split with Highland Branch and abandoned Newton Lower Falls Branch
12.5 Wellesley Wellesley Farms Originally Rice's Crossing
13.5 Wellesley Hills
14.7 Wellesley Square July 3, 1834 Originally Wellesley
17.7 Natick Natick Center Former junction with abandoned Saxonville Branch
19.9 Handicapped/disabled access West Natick August 23, 1982
21.4 Framingham Handicapped/disabled access Framingham Amtrak Lake Shore Limited
junction with Milford Branch and Boston, Clinton, Fitchburg and New Bedford Railroad (NYNH&H, includes original Framingham Branch)
25.2 Ashland Handicapped/disabled access Ashland August 24, 2002 Former junction with abandoned Hopkinton Railway (NYNH&H)
27.4 Southborough Handicapped/disabled access Southborough June 22, 2002 Originally Cordaville
34.0 Westborough Handicapped/disabled access Westborough June 22, 2002
36.4 Grafton Handicapped/disabled access Grafton February 23, 2000 Originally North Grafton
junction with Grafton and Upton Railroad
44.2 Worcester Handicapped/disabled access Worcester Amtrak Lake Shore Limited
replaced older terminal
temporarily closed October 26, 1975, reopened September 26, 1994
junction with Providence and Worcester Railroad (NYNH&H), Norwich and Worcester Railroad (NYNH&H), Worcester, Nashua and Rochester Railroad (B&M) and Boston, Barre and Gardner Railroad (B&M)


  1. ^ a b c "2014 Bluebook 14th Edition" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Commuter Rail Executive Summary" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Annear, Steve (9 January 2014). "Take A Ride On The MBTA’s ‘New Indigo Line’ In 2024". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Belcher, Jonathan (31 August 2012). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  5. ^ "Sidetracked". Worcester Magazine. 6 September 2007. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Dayal, Priyanka (5 February 2008). "On-time T trains pick up steam: Commuter service to Hub cuts delays". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  7. ^ Monahan, John J. (6 March 2008). "Will city trains go north to go east?". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Archived from the original on 8 January 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Bierman, Noah (February 13, 2008). "T tweaks a train schedule to reflect reality". The Boston Globe. 
  9. ^ "MBTA Scorecard: September 2009" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. September 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  10. ^ "Framingham/Worcester Commuter Rail customers: Try our free MBTA Wi-Fi Commuter Rail Connect Test Program!". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. January 2008. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2014. First, it provides one of the best opportunities from a geographical perspective to test Wi-Fi capabilities as it runs from Boston to central Massachusetts (Worcester) through various terrains (hills, wooded areas, etc.) Secondly, we are aware that the Framingham/Worcester trains have experienced significant performance issues due mainly to the owner and operator of the line (CSX). For that, we want to offer Framingham/Worcester customers the first opportunity. 
  11. ^ a b "PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION FINALIZES AGREEMENT WITH CSX TRANSPORTATION" (Press release). The Official Website of the Governor of Massachusetts. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  12. ^ Town, Your (September 23, 2009). "CSX finalizes agreement to expand rail service west, south of Boston". The Boston Globe. 
  13. ^ Rocheleau, Matt (9 November 2012). "New Balance aims to open commuter rail station in 2014". Boston Globe. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Powers, Martine (30 May 2014). "Brighton rail station opening pushed back to 2016". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 1 June 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  15. ^ Rocheleau, Matt (31 July 2012). "T plans to boost commuter rail trips between Boston, Worcester this fall". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  16. ^ Monahan, John J. (4 October 2012). "At CSX freight yard, Murray touts increased train service". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  17. ^ Associated Press (29 April 2013). "MBTA launches Worcester-Boston express service". Worcester Telegram. Archived from the original on 26 January 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2014. 
  18. ^ "LT GOV MURRAY ANNOUNCES NEW SCHEDULE FOR INCREASED COMMUTER RAIL SERVICE". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 4 October 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  19. ^ a b Jessen, Klark (7 August 2013). "State Takes “Absolute Control” over Worcester to Boston Line". Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Monahan, John J. (14 November 2013). "State plans to expand commuter trains for Worcester". Worcester Telegram. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  21. ^ "GOV. PATRICK CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING OF YAWKEY STATION". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. March 10, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Expanded Yawkey Station to open in March, T says". Boston Globe. February 27, 2014. 
  23. ^ Monahan, John J. (22 January 2014). "MBTA promises more Worcester-Boston trains by end of February". Worcester Telegram. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  24. ^ "Allston Multimodal Station Study" (PDF). Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation. 15 June 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  25. ^ Powers, Martine (9 July 2014). "MassDOT moves to end delays on Worcester rail line". Boston Globe. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  26. ^ a b Dungca, Nicole (30 September 2014). "New transit station to connect Allston to downtown". Boston Globe. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^

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