Video obtained by the NBC10 Investigators shows a runaway Red Line train rolling through an MBTA station in Braintree, Massachusetts, with no passengers on board and no operator at the helm.
The train eventually came to a stop on its own after traveling roughly a half mile.
According to the MBTA, the May 30 incident began when two subway employees tried to uncouple the last two cars from a Red Line train because of an air conditioning problem.
They planned to replace the cars with another pair from the nearby Red Line yard. However, the workers had difficulty with the process, so they gave up and recoupled them to the rest of the train.
Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.
As that train left the Braintree station and headed out of service to the yard, the back four cars detached and rolled backwards.
Video shows the train slowly roll through the station. In one clip, a man and a girl appear to look confused about why the train did not stop for passengers.
“It is a completely unacceptable safety breach on the part of the MBTA,” said rail safety expert Keith Millhouse, who previously ran the Southern California Regional Rail Authority. “I think it’s very fortunate there was no damage that was done either to property or especially human life, given the out-of-control nature of the train.”
Have a tip for the NBC10 Boston Investigators? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To prevent a repeat incident, a T spokesperson said the transit agency:
- Is retraining subway personnel on proper procedures for uncoupling cars
- Having managers reissue a rules reminder about specific practices that must be followed to ensure a train is properly secured
- Only allowing uncoupling in rail yards unless it is an emergency situation
The latest problem comes as the Federal Transit Administration is compiling a rare safety review of the transit agency following a series of high-profile incidents like crashes, derailments and a passenger death.
The FTA said last week that the MBTA has reported five runaway train events in rail yards or during maintenance since the beginning of 2021. One of those cases resulted in injuries to three workers.
In a statement about the May 30 runaway incident uncovered by the NBC10 Investigators, the MBTA said:
"Strengthening its commitment to safety, the MBTA has almost doubled the size of its Safety Department in the past three years, broadening the scope of its activities and training thousands of employees to help foster a culture in which safety is prioritized and integrated into the MBTA's core mission.
Advancing safety-related objectives with billions of dollars in infrastructure and vehicle investments, the MBTA is working collaboratively with the Federal Transit Administration to make the T a transit industry leader in safety and reliability."
A Red Line supervisor remains on paid administrative leave while the investigation into the May 30 incident continues.
Millhouse, the rail safety expert, said too much of the MBTA response seems to be reactive instead of proactive.
“You shouldn’t have this happening,” he said. “They’re doing things backwards at the MBTA where they’re reiterating rules and training people after an incident.
Ryan Kath can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.