Framingham/Worcester Line

MBTA commuter railroad line

Encyclopedia from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Framingham/Worcester Line
MBTA 1074 at West Natick station, May 2017.JPG
An inbound train at West Natick station in May 2017
OwnerMassDOT (Back Bay to Riverside)
MBTA (Riverside to Framingham)
MassDOT (Framingham to Worcester)[1]
LocaleCentral Massachusetts
TypeRegional rail/commuter rail
SystemMBTA Commuter Rail
Train number(s)500–596 (weekday)
1500–1519 (Saturday)
2500–2519 (Sunday)
Operator(s)Keolis North America
Daily ridership10,606 (October 2022)[2]
Opened1834–1835 (Boston and Worcester Railroad)
Line length44.3 miles (71.3 km)[3][1]
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map

0.0 mi
0 km
South Station
Silver Line (MBTA) MBTA Commuter Rail Amtrak
1.2 mi
1.9 km
Back Bay
MBTA Commuter Rail Amtrak
2.5 mi
4 km
3.8 mi
6.1 km
West Station (future)
4.7 mi
7.6 km
Boston Landing
8.1 mi
13 km
9.1 mi
14.6 km
West Newton
10.2 mi
16.4 km
10.7 mi
17.2 km
Riverside (closed 1977)
12.5 mi
20.1 km
Wellesley Farms
13.5 mi
21.7 km
Wellesley Hills
14.7 mi
23.7 km
Wellesley Square
17.7 mi
28.5 km
Natick Center
19.9 mi
32 km
West Natick
21.4 mi
34.4 km
25.2 mi
40.6 km
27.4 mi
44.1 km
34.0 mi
54.7 km
36.4 mi
58.6 km
Grafton and Upton Railroad
to Hopedale Yard
Worcester Layover
& CSX Terminal
44.3 mi
71.3 km

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 contends with 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. A new station at Boston Landing opened in 2017. All stations from Boston Landing east and West Natick west are accessible; Natick Center is being reconstructed for accessibility, while renovations to the six remaining stations are planned.


This 1881-built depot at Auburndale, designed by H. H. Richardson, was torn down in 1961 to make room for the Massachusetts Turnpike

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 take over intercity rail service from the private railroads. When Amtrak started operations on May 1, 1971, no intercity service was kept on the line, thus ending direct connections from Boston to Springfield, Pittsfield, and Albany. In mid-May, Amtrak added the Boston-New Haven Bay State.[5] The train struggled to find consistent ridership, with frequent changes of schedule and destination. In 1973, the westbound trip operated as a quasi-commuter train. The Bay State was canceled on March 1, 1975.[5]

On January 27, 1973, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) acquired the remainder of the tracks east of Framingham, and began subsidizing service between Framingham and Boston. Commuter rail service between Worcester and Framingham (with no intermediate stops after 1960) was not subsidized by the MBTA; with just ten riders per day riding from Worcester, service was cut back to Framingham on October 27, 1975.[4][6] Amtrak began operating a Boston-Albany section of the Lake Shore Limited four days later. Boston-New Haven (Inland Route) service was restored under the Bay State name in 1984, and ran in various forms until the early 2000s.[5]

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. Service along the remaining Boston-Framingham segment was considerably increased in October 1979; this was intended to partially compensate for the closure of the Needham Line that month to make room for Southwest Corridor construction.[4] As part of the Southwest Corridor project, 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.

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] The total cost of the Worcester Commuter Rail Extension Project was $97 million.[7]

Ownership and performance problems

Empty Beacon Park Yard in 2014

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10]

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.[9] On February 18, 2008, a new schedule went into effect, intended to more accurately reflect the run time on the line.[11] By August 2009, actual on-time performance was at 82%.[12]

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.[13]

On October 2, 2008, the state government announced an agreement with CSX Transportation for the purchase and upgrade of several of CSX's freight lines in the state. CSX agreed to sell the Framingham-to-Worcester section of the Worcester Line, its lines from Taunton to Fall River and New Bedford for use by the South Coast Rail project, the Grand Junction Branch, and the South Boston Running Track. Other parts of the agreement included plans for double-stack freights west of Worcester and the abandonment of Beacon Park Yard.[14] Weekday Worcester service was increased to twelve round trips on October 27, 2008, under the agreement.[15] The agreement was signed on September 23, 2009, with the Worcester Line transfer then expected in 2011.[16][17]

Service expansions

Boston Landing station in 2018

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 was delayed until May 22, 2017.[18][19]

In July 2012, the MBTA announced plans to add additional service on the line as CSX moved freight transload operations from Beacon Park Yard in Allston to a new yard in East Worcester that did not interfere with passenger operations.[20] 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.[21] A rush-hour express serving Worcester was added on April 29, 2013.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24] 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.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26][27][28] 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.[29] 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.[25] 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.[30]

In early 2014, MassDOT proposed DMU local service for the inner part of the line as part of the "Indigo Line".[31] 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 would have been constructed simultaneously with a $260 million reconfiguration of the Mass Pike through Beacon Park Yard and was planned to open in 2020.[32] Plans for DMU service were cancelled in 2015, and West Station was delayed to 2040.[33] On May 23, 2016, the MBTA began running a single daily round trip – inbound in the morning rush, outbound in the late evening – with no intermediate stops between Yawkey (later renamed to Lansdowne) and Worcester. Branded "HeartToHub", the trips were scheduled for travel times of under one hour between Back Bay and Worcester, slightly faster than the driving time between those two locations.[34]

COVID-19 cuts and construction projects

Weekday service was substantially cut on March 17, 2020, due to reduced ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic.[35] On June 22, service was increased, but all trains continued to run local.[36] Schedule changes effective November 2, 2020 re-added express service, including the Heart to Hub service (with an added Framingham stop).[37]

Reduced service operated from December 14, 2020, to April 5, 2021, again as part of systemwide reductions.[38][4] Service changes on April 5, 2021, began the transition to a regional rail model, with hourly Boston–Worcester service.[39][40] Worcester service operates express between Boston Landing and West Natick at peak hours, with hourly Boston–Framingham local trains at those times to provide service to the inner part of the line. Because the single-platform Newton stations can only be served by trains in one direction at peak service levels, a "Newton Connection Railbus" bus shuttle operated between Newton Highlands and Wellesley Farms to provide reverse-peak service to the stations.[41] The bus shuttle ended service on August 27, 2021, as route 505 bus service resumed two days later.[42] By October 2022, the line had 10,606 daily riders – 57% of pre-COVID ridership.[2]

A three-year reconstruction of Natick Center station began in March 2020, followed by the addition of a second platform at Worcester Union Station beginning in late 2021.[43][44] Midday service was reduced beginning May 2, 2022, to accommodate the construction projects. That schedule has 16 weekday Boston–Worcester round trips plus three outbound and five inbound Framingham trains; weekend service is ten Boston–Worcester round trips.[45] In June 2021, the MBTA issued a $28 million design contract for a project to add a third track from Weston to Framingham, including reconstruction of the three Wellesley stations and West Natick station. The project was expected to cost around $400 million, with completion in 2030.[46] Renovations to the three Newton stations (including the addition of second platforms) are also planned.[47][48]

Station listing

Grafton station, with large ramps and mini-high platforms for accessibility, is typical of the west-of-Framingham stations built around 2000
West Newton station, with a single non-accessible platform
Riverside station (former platform pictured) is the only station on the line closed during the MBTA era
Fare zone Location Mile (km)[1] Station Connections and notes
1A Boston 0.0 Disabled access South Station Amtrak Amtrak: Acela, Lake Shore Limited, Northeast Regional
MBTA.svg MBTA Commuter Rail: Fairmount, Franklin, Greenbush, Kingston, Middleborough/Lakeville, Needham, Providence/Stoughton; CapeFLYER (seasonal)
MBTA.svg MBTA subway: Red Line, Silver Line (SL1, SL2, SL3, SL4)
Bus transport MBTA bus: 4, 7, 11
Bus transport Intercity buses at South Station Bus Terminal
1.2 (1.9) Disabled access Back Bay Amtrak Amtrak: Acela Express, Lake Shore Limited, Northeast Regional
MBTA.svg MBTA Commuter Rail: Franklin, Needham, and Providence/Stoughton lines
MBTA.svg MBTA subway: Orange Line
Bus transport MBTA bus: 10, 39, 170
2.5 (4.0) Disabled access Lansdowne Bus transport MBTA bus: 8, 19, 60, 65
3.8 (6.1) West Station Proposed station
4.7 (7.6) Disabled access Boston Landing Bus transport MBTA bus: 64
1 Newton 8.1 (13.0) Newtonville Bus transport MBTA bus: 59, 553, 554, 556
2 9.1 (14.6) West Newton Bus transport MBTA bus: 170, 505, 553, 554
10.2 (16.4) Auburndale Bus transport MBTA bus: 505, 558
10.9 (17.5) Riverside Closed October 27, 1977
3 Wellesley 12.5 (20.1) Wellesley Farms
13.5 (21.7) Wellesley Hills
14.7 (23.7) Wellesley Square
4 Natick 17.7 (28.5) Natick Center Bus transport MWRTA: 10, 11, Natick Commuter Shuttle
19.9 (32.0) Disabled access West Natick Bus transport MWRTA: 10, 11
5 Framingham 21.4 (34.4) Disabled access Framingham Amtrak Amtrak: Lake Shore Limited
Bus transport MWRTA: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Framingham Commuter Shuttle, Westborough Commuter Shuttle
Bus transport Greyhound Lines
6 Ashland 25.2 (40.6) Disabled access Ashland
Southborough 27.4 (44.1) Disabled access Southborough Bus transport Marlborough Commuter Shuttle
7 Westborough 34.0 (54.7) Disabled access Westborough Bus transport WRTA: Westborough Commuter Shuttle
8 Grafton 36.4 (58.6) Disabled access Grafton Bus transport WRTA: B
Worcester 44.2 (71.1) Disabled access Worcester Amtrak Amtrak: Lake Shore Limited
Bus transport WRTA: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 14, 15, 16, 19, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, 33, 42
Bus transport PVTA: B79
Bus transport Peter Pan Bus Lines, Greyhound Lines
  Currently operating station


  1. ^ a b c "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014.
  2. ^ a b Poftak, Steve (October 27, 2022). "GM Report" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. p. 6.
  3. ^ "Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Commuter Rail Executive Summary" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e Belcher, Jonathan. "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). Boston Street Railway Association.
  5. ^ a b c Humphrey, Thomas J.; Clark, Norton D. (1985). Boston's Commuter Rail: The First 150 Years. Boston Street Railway Association. pp. 21–28. ISBN 9780685412947.
  6. ^ Saltzman, Jonathan (June 16, 2002). "Local Rail Service Has Rich History". The Boston Globe. p. 7 – via
  7. ^ "MBTA Opens New Ashland Station" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. August 27, 2002. Archived from the original on October 11, 2002.
  8. ^ "Sidetracked". Worcester Magazine. September 6, 2007. Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  9. ^ a b Dayal, Priyanka (February 5, 2008). "On-time T trains pick up steam: Commuter service to Hub cuts delays". Telegram & Gazette. Worcester, Mass. Archived from the original on May 20, 2011. Retrieved January 8, 2014.
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  11. ^ Bierman, Noah (February 13, 2008). "T tweaks a train schedule to reflect reality". The Boston Globe.
  12. ^ "MBTA Scorecard: September 2009" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). September 2009. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  13. ^ "Framingham/Worcester Commuter Rail customers: Try our free MBTA Wi-Fi Commuter Rail Connect Test Program!". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). January 2008. Archived from the original on March 27, 2008. Retrieved January 9, 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.
  14. ^ "PATRICK ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT TO PURCHASE RAIL LINES" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. October 2, 2008.
  15. ^ "Expanded Service To/From Worcester Begins" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. October 27, 2008.
  16. ^ "PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION FINALIZES AGREEMENT WITH CSX TRANSPORTATION" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. September 23, 2009.
  17. ^ "CSX finalizes agreement to expand rail service west, south of Boston". The Boston Globe. September 23, 2009.
  18. ^ Rocheleau, Matt (November 9, 2012). "New Balance aims to open commuter rail station in 2014". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  19. ^ Powers, Martine (May 30, 2014). "Brighton rail station opening pushed back to 2016". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on June 1, 2014. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
  20. ^ Rocheleau, Matt (July 31, 2012). "T plans to boost commuter rail trips between Boston, Worcester this fall". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
  21. ^ Monahan, John J. (October 4, 2012). "At CSX freight yard, Murray touts increased train service". Telegram & Gazette. Worcester, Mass. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
  22. ^ "MBTA launches Worcester-Boston express service". Worcester Telegram. Associated Press. April 29, 2013. Archived from the original on January 26, 2014. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  23. ^ "Lt Gov Murray Announces New Schedule For Increased Commuter Rail Service". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). October 4, 2012. Retrieved October 6, 2012.
  24. ^ a b Jessen, Klark (August 7, 2013). "State Takes "Absolute Control" over Worcester to Boston Line". Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Retrieved August 7, 2013.
  25. ^ a b Monahan, John J. (November 14, 2013). "State plans to expand commuter trains for Worcester". Worcester Telegram. Retrieved November 17, 2013.
  26. ^ "GOV. PATRICK CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING OF YAWKEY STATION". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). March 10, 2014.
  27. ^ "Expanded Yawkey Station to open in March, T says". The Boston Globe. February 27, 2014.
  28. ^ Monahan, John J. (January 22, 2014). "MBTA promises more Worcester-Boston trains by end of February". Worcester Telegram. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  29. ^ "Allston Multimodal Station Study" (PDF). Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation. June 15, 2009. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  30. ^ Powers, Martine (July 9, 2014). "MassDOT moves to end delays on Worcester rail line". The Boston Globe. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  31. ^ Annear, Steve (January 9, 2014). "Take A Ride On The MBTA's 'New Indigo Line' In 2024". Boston Magazine. Retrieved October 2, 2014.
  32. ^ Dungca, Nicole (September 30, 2014). "New transit station to connect Allston to downtown". The Boston Globe. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
  33. ^ Stout, Matt (June 20, 2015). "Charlie Baker derails T trains". Boston Herald. Archived from the original on June 22, 2015.
  34. ^ "Introducing the HeartToHub" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). April 25, 2016.
  35. ^ "MBTA Announces Schedule Revisions to Take Effect Tuesday, March 17" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. March 16, 2020.
  36. ^ "Report from the Deputy General Manager" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. June 15, 2020.
  37. ^ DiAdamo, Rob (September 14, 2020). "Fall 2020 Commuter Rail Schedule Changes" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  38. ^ "Commuter Rail to Temporarily Operate Reduced Service Schedule Starting December 14" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. December 10, 2021.
  39. ^ "Reminder: Spring 2021 Commuter Rail Schedules Take Effect April 5" (Press release). Keolis Commuter Services. April 1, 2021.
  40. ^ "Framingham/Worcester Commuter Rail Line's New Regional Rail-style Service in Effect April 5" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. April 2, 2021.
  41. ^ "Framingham/Worcester Line 2021 Spring Schedule" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. April 5, 2021.
  42. ^ "Framingham/Worcester Line: Alerts". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. August 24, 2021. Archived from the original on August 24, 2021.
  43. ^ "System-Wide Accessibility Initiatives—December 2021" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Department of System-Wide Accessibility. December 2021. p. 7.
  44. ^ Malachowski, Jeff (April 8, 2020). "Long-awaited $40 million reconstruction of the Natick Center commuter rail station is underway". Metrowest Daily News.
  45. ^ "Framingham/Worcester Line: Spring 2022 Construction Schedule" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. May 2, 2022.
  46. ^ Kelly, Maribel (June 21, 2021). "MBTA Contract No. C72PS01: Worcester Line Track and Stations Accessibility Improvements (P0261) Design and Engineering Services" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  47. ^ Mohl, Bruce (June 28, 2021). "Worcester commuter rail line targeted for upgrades". Commonwealth Magazine.
  48. ^ Kelly, Maribel (March 10, 2020). "Worcester Union Station Accessibility and Infrastructure Improvements: Stakeholder Meeting" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

External links

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