NEWS

Potential Amtrak strike could impact MBTA rail commuters

Don Conkey

Ed Williams is not looking forward to a possible Amtrak strike.

The Rockland resident rides the commuter rail on the Old Colony line from the Abington station to get to his office on High Street in Boston and would be affected by a potential strike.

"They say there are going to be 2,000 extra passengers at Braintree," Williams said. "It's going to add at least a half-hour to the commute."

Williams said he will stick with the train, but he is unsure how the changes will affect his commute, especially in terms of what time he'll have to leave home every day.

An Amtrak strike could create problems for South Shore commuters because Amtrak dispatches service in and out of South Station. An Amtrak strike would nearly shut down South Station, MBTA officials say.

"A job action by Amtrak workers, including train dispatchers, would have a crippling effect on all MBTA commuter rail service that operates out of South Station. No trains would be able to arrive at (or depart from) South Station," MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas said in a statement Wednesday.

In addition, "There would be no service whatsoever on the Providence and Stoughton commuter rail lines, which are dispatched by Amtrak employees," Grabauskas said.

An Amtrak strike could occur as soon as Jan. 30.

If the Providence and Stoughton commuter rail lines are shut down due to a strike, it would directly affect South Shore commuters who get trains on those lines in Stoughton, Canton, and Sharon.

The MBTA owns most of the commuter rail track that carries suburban riders. But, trains not being able to stop at or depart from South Station would force many people to explore different options, such as subways, buses, or fighting the Boston traffic in their own vehicles.

For South Shore commuters who travel to South Station via the Plymouth and Middleboro lines and still choose to ride trains during a strike, one option would be getting off the train at Quincy Center or Braintree Red Line stations, and take the subway into South Station.

For Greenbush Line riders, the only transfer spot would be Quincy Center.

Amtrak workers have not had a new contract since 2000.

An emergency presidential panel created to avert a strike made raise and compensation recommendations last week that the unions liked. But Amtrak would probably need help from Congress to pay for it.

The Amtrak unions have a legal right to strike on Jan. 30.

South Station deals with about 60 percent of MBTA commuter trains.

While the MBTA is developing contingency plans, Grabauskas said, "any such plans would only be able to accommodate approximately 25 percent of the more than 47,000 commuter rail customers who arrive at South Station on a typical weekday."

Don Conkey may be reached at dconkey@ledger.com.

The Patriot Ledger