BEVERLY — While commuters received plenty of notice that MBTA service for Tuesday would be cancelled, as it was announced in the press conference Governor Charlie Baker gave around 1 p.m. declaring a state of emergency for Massachusetts, they were not prepared for the chaos that erupted on Monday, particularly for North Shore-bound travelers using the Newburyport/Rockport line.
The chaos on the Newburyport/Rockport line began around 2:30 p.m., when the Beverly drawbridge became stuck open, causing delays and, ultimately, multiple cancellations.
Mac Daniel, media relations manager of Keolis, the company that operates the MBTA, said that when the bridge became stuck, there were trains on both the Beverly and Salem sides, so a shuttle bus system was set up. Trains could travel from North Station to Salem, at which point passengers would then be taken by bus to Beverly Depot, where they could board a different northbound train to continue on to their final destination.
The situation initially led to delays more than 45 minutes and then, approximately an hour before its scheduled departure, the 4:45 outbound train was cancelled. Other trains soon followed. The 5:00, 5:15 and 5:55 p.m. trains outbound from North Station and the 5:40 and 7 p.m. trains inbound from Beverly were all cancelled.
Daniel explained that these trains were cut from service because they did shorter runs, just between Beverly and North Station. “In a situation like this you have to take the good with the bad,” said Daniel, continuing on to say that by cancelling those “shuttle” trains, they were freeing up the route so that “the trains that are stuck don’t get more stuck.”
Evening outbound trains that were not cancelled, were the 5:30 p.m., 7:40 and all later trains (as of presstime).
But cancellations weren’t the only part of the situation that frustrated travelers. Many people took to Twitter to complain about the lack of information they were getting about why they were waiting so long on or for their train ride home — they apparently had no idea what was going on.
Bob Furu, from the Twitter handle @kungfuru, wrote “3:20 outbound stuck in Swampscott then you moved us to the mouth of a tunnel with no announcement. Stuck another 20 min. What’s up.” Other tweets echoed the sentiment, some with a little more of a disgruntled tone.
Mac Daniel, of Keolis, said that they were aware of the complaints and said that when they got word of the delays and lack of communication, they tried to stay active and give updates on social media, as well as advised the commuter rail employees to provide more information to passengers.
Regarding the plan for the rest of Monday night, Daniel said around 5:30 p.m. that trains would continue running in accordance with the regular weekday schedule (except for the already-cancelled trains) and that the shuttle bus system between Beverly and Salem would continue until the repairs were done or the full MBTA official shutdown went into effect for Tuesday.
Daniel said at 7:45 p.m. that repairs were expected to be completed by about 8 p.m. but was uncertain as there had been hold-ups throughout the process. He then noted that service was continuing and they were working to get everyone home but were dealing with a large number of people waiting — both at Salem for the shuttle bus (Daniel said there had been a couple of hundred passengers there at one point but the crowds were thinning) and at North Station, due to the backups caused by the broken bridge.
“We apologize for the delays, it couldn’t have happen at a worse time, but we are working on getting everyone home — albeit late,” said Daniel.
Although the bridge situation made the Newburyport/Rockport line especially problematic, it wasn’t the only commuter rail line that had issues. Other lines that experienced delays included the Middleborough/Lakeville and Providence (from Wickford Junction); as well as Kingston/Plymouth, which was delayed due to a problem with a switch; and Franklin (from South Station), delayed due to slippery rail conditions.
Staff writer Amanda Ostuni can be reached at 978-338-2660 or email@example.com.