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Heavily Damaged Signal Systems Slow The Return Of Normal Red Line Service

BOSTON (CBS) -- Repairs to the 3rd rail, power system, and a major portion of the tracks near the JFK/UMass Station are complete but the MBTA said Friday there is work to be done before Red Line service will return to normal. The area was heavily damaged after a derailment Tuesday.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak asked commuters to add an extra 15 to 20 minutes to their travel time.

Significant damage to three signal bungalows is behind the continued delays. "One of them was almost entirely wiped out. The others really have sustained significant damage. This is resulting in much slower train speeds than we typically run and obviously a longer ride for our customers," said Poftak.

Damaged signal bungalows at the JFK/UMass T stop after Tuesday's derailment. (Photo via MBTA Twitter)

It's unclear when the signal system, which also affects the countdown clocks, will be fixed.

"Right now, unfortunately, the countdown clocks, are integrally tied to the information that comes out of the signal system. Until we get the signal system back, we won't be able to provide that information, which I know is frustrating, it's frustrating for us... it's very important information, to begin with, and in a period where you're facing uncertainty and delays, it's even more important," said Poftak.

Trains must travel at reduced speeds while going through the station and commuters on the Braintree branch must switch trains at the station, two factors that also contribute to the delays.

"This is unacceptable and we apologize for the inconvenience during the commute this week. I want to assure everyone that the MBTA is working 24 hours a day to address this incident. We have a team of over 150 T employees and contractors hard at work trying to get service back together. I do want to acknowledge the service, obviously, is disrupted," Poftak said.

Some commuters are trying to handle the situation with good grace.

"I'm trying to be positive," said one passenger on the Red Line.

Other riders are concerned about their ability to get to work.

"I have been late to work a minimum 45 minutes each day," said Isabella Depina.

"It's just terrible," said Robert Slack. "It's ridiculous and nothing is going to change."

"I've been taking it for the last few days, and it's slower than it normally is, so it's running about 15 to 20 mins late, and since the signals were knocked out, they have to wait hear from the other stations, so they stop for excessive periods of time, so yes, it's a pain," said commuter Lauren Nolfo-Clements.

Along with returning service, the MBTA is focusing on the investigation into caused the derailment.

The car itself was put in service in 1969 and rehauled in the late '80s. Its wheels and the apparatus that holds the wheels were installed in 2014. All trains are inspected every 8500 miles (which is about once a month) and this car was last inspected on May 3, according to Poftak.

He repeated that he did not believe operator error was behind the incident. After a derailment on the Green Line on June 8, the operator of the train was blamed for causing it to go off the tracks.

Test trains will be run over the weekend through the station. Another service update will be provided on Sunday evening.

A fare increase is still expected to begin July 1.

With the nightmare ride home, riders feel the fare hikes are anything but fair.

"They should be really reflecting on how their customers are feeling instead of increasing pricing," Depina said.

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