Old Green Line trains hinder MBTA efforts to install crash-prevention technology

Difficulties installing advanced technology into the aging Green Line fleet have delayed the anticipated completion date for the much-needed train collision prevention equipment by 18 months.

MBTA Capital Transformation Chief Angel Peña said that the manufacturer Stadler Rail chose to delay the end date for the final installation of the Green Line Train Protection System from December 2023 to June 2025, after a review of the project made after receiving the supplier of the T project, BBR.

The decision came in late 2022, weeks before the National Transportation Safety Board concluded in its final report that the July 30, 2021 collision between two Green Line trains could have been prevented if the train’s collision prevention system had been in place. The crash killed 27 people and caused both trains to derail.

“Aside from (the Green Line Train Protection System) being a complex system on its own, incorporating this technology into our legacy fleet adds another layer of complexity to the integration,” Peña said at Thursday’s Board of Directors meeting.

“Think for a moment like trying to incorporate the self-driving features of a newer electric car with a Volvo built in the late 1980s. That’s what we’re dealing with now.”

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The majority of the MBTA’s Green Line fleet consists of 103 Type 7 and 87 Type 8 cars, which were in service between 1986 and 2007.

The Green Line Train Protection System has been installed on 102 new Type 10 “supercars,” which will replace older trains when they begin arriving in the spring of 2027, at a required rate of two cars per month, Peña said.

All the cars from the $811 million investment are scheduled to be delivered by the spring of 2031, and will operate with 24 Type 9 cars, Peña said.

GLTPS is similar to positive train control in Commuter Rail, according to Peña. It combines vehicles and wayside equipment, he said, to enter speed enforcement, add red light signal protection, and will trigger automatic brakes if the operator fails to react to potential hazards, preventing train-on-train collisions.

These devices were recommended by the NTSB in 2009 following another Green Line collision that he said could have been prevented a year earlier, had a positive train control system been in place. In that instance, 68 people were injured.

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