New Bedford

South Coast Rail delayed again: Here's when service is now expected to start

MBTA GM Phillip Eng thanked the public for their patience, saying the T is committed to delivering service that is high quality and safe

Split image of Downtown New Bedford and Church Street MBTA Station
NBC10 Boston

The South Coast Rail — a highly-anticipated project that will bring direct commuter rail service to southeastern Massachusetts — isn't expected to open to passengers until spring 2025, marking another delay for an initiative that has been decades in the making.

The MBTA held two community meetings Thursday in New Bedford and Fall River to give the public an update, and says that it will begin running test trains on Monday.



Watch NBC10 Boston news for free, 24/7, wherever you are.


Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.

The South Coast Rail's first phase extends the Middleboro/Lakeville Line of the commuter rail further south, connecting it to Taunton, Freetown, Fall River and New Bedford. These communities have not had direct rail access to Boston in over 70 years.

Communities like New Bedford, Fall River and Taunton will have direct rail access to Boston for the first time in decades.

MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng "determined that new project leadership was needed to ensure the success and safety of the project," according to a news release Friday morning. Karen Antion is now the executive of the project.

Test trains will travel up to 79 mph starting on Monday. Initial testing has been conducted at slow speeds, but now the next phase will involve testing at railroad crossings at multiple speeds, in both directions and on all routes, according to a news release.

The T said that four locomotives have been overhauled and are ready to operate. The transit agency said it's acquired 16 two-level coaches specifically for the South Coast region. Construction at four stations — Middleboro, Freetown, Fall River and Church Street — has been completed, and work is nearing completion at New Bedford and East Taunton.

Once construction and safety systems are finalized, the MBTA will need to have final inspections done through the Federal Railroad Administration.

Amid testing, the MBTA will also be busy getting maintenance staff and train operators up to speed.

All South Coast Rail stations will be included in Zone 8, the T also announced, meaning that a one-way fare will run $12.75. A reduced fare will cost $6.

Eng spoke with NBC10 Boston about the project in December, when service was slated to begin this summer.

"It's going to be safe; it's going to be reliable," Eng said in December. "And it's just another component as we continue to build out the system and even rebuild the other parts of the system that we know we have to do."

Transportation officials issued a warning for people to use caution around tracks as test trains start running on Monday.

“It’s clear how important South Coast Rail is to southeastern Mass. communities, and since taking over the Program, I’m more determined than ever to deliver on that commitment,” MBTA South Coast Rail Program Executive Karen Antion said in a news release. “Safety is our top priority for the project. Test trains, which start on Monday, will travel up to 79 miles per hour, and I urge our Taunton, New Bedford, and Fall River neighbors to stay clear of track areas and abide by all warning lights and signs at grade crossings."

A full build of the South Coast Rail will extend service past Stoughton, and connect more communities by train to Boston.

Contact Us