This September will mark 66 years since residents on the South Coast have been able to take a one-seat ride from New Bedford or Fall River to Boston. However, due to the MBTA’s most recent announcement, we’ll have to wait at least one more year to catch a train to the Capitol.

On June 13th, MBTA General Manager Phil Eng traveled to public meetings in Fall River and New Bedford to announce unwelcome news to South Coast Rail hopefuls. The update included a new official start date of May 2025, the third delay in as many years. “The MBTA is deeply committed to delivering the South Coast Rail project while upholding the highest standards of quality and safety before launching passenger service,” Eng said in a press release. During the public meeting, Eng also admitted, “It became apparent that the schedule does not match what we had publicly advertised.” A sentiment that residents of the South Coast have become accustomed to over the past few decades.

Efforts and advocacy to provide access to Boston via rail have spanned over 30 years, and across 7 Gubernatorial Administrations, the South Coast should not take our foot off the gas. One SouthCoast Chamber has proudly participated in the Rail to Boston Coalition since its inception in 2014. The Coalition is comprised of leading business and community organizations in Massachusetts that are working together to re-establish the commuter rail connection to Southeastern Massachusetts. Chaired by Paul Chasse, the coalition has worked tirelessly to ensure that this project gets over the finish line in both a timely and transparent fashion.

In the Coalition’s press release responding to the announcement, we express our concern over the lack of transparency we have seen from the MBTA over the past six months. Chasse states, “We understand the safety factor and that the South Coast will begin experiencing test trains at speeds varying between 45 and 79 miles per hour for the first time in the area’s history, and that even beyond passing all of the checkpoints required by the Federal Railroad Administration in order to move forward with passenger service, the safety of all South Coast residents, passengers and rail employees are of paramount importance and this is why we expect better communication moving forward from the MBTA. As a grassroots organization representing the South Coast, we will monitor the progress of these final phases to hold the MBTA accountable to their May 2025 launch of rail service.” Chasse goes on further to say, “We also have to understand that this project was a massive undertaking by the Commonwealth, and delays in a final launch date could be expected, but according to MBTA General Manager Eng, the project is still operating within budget, and following this delay, the residents of South Coast Massachusetts will finally have passenger rail service to Boston, along with all of the economic and social impacts that the region will benefit from.”

While the delays dominated the headlines, some noteworthy developments were also released.  Four out of the six new stations are now complete, including Fall River, Freetown, Middleborough, and Church St. The New Bedford station at Whale’s Tooth is 97% finished and expected to be fully complete in July. The East Taunton station is 75% complete and expected to be finished in August.

We also learned that all six stations will be included in the MBTA’s Zone 8 pricing structure. This means that if trains ran today, a one-way fare would cost $12.25, and a round-trip fare would total $24.50. MBTA officials also confirmed that the expected travel time to South Station remains 90 minutes and that the $1.3 billion price tag remains on budget.

One SouthCoast, in partnership with the Rail to Boston Coalition, will continue to advocate on behalf of the residents and businesses of Southeastern Massachusetts. We encourage everyone to stay engaged and involved to ensure that by this time next year, we’ll be taking the train to watch another Celtics Parade!

Ian Trombly

Vice President of Public Policy