NECN INVESTIGATES: Route 128 Amtrak Station in Disrepair

Amtrak says it's working to fix the problems, but commuters aren't buying it

The cah-clunk of an escalator is not always a familiar sound at the Route 128 Commuter Rail Station in Westwood, Massachusetts.

Seth Jacobs, who commutes to Boston from Sharon, said "It seems bizarre. It should be fixed by now."

Commuters here say the escalators and elevators at the busy Amtrak/MBTA station have been plagued by problems for years.

Josh Musher of Newton insists at least "three or four years."

John Bartlett of Canton agrees, "It's been many, many, many years."

Earlier this week, only one out of four station escalators was working. The "up" escalator from the ground floor churned along, while "down" lay still, its guts exposed. Both of the escalators with direct access to the Amtrak and MBTA train platforms were shut down -- boarded up by bright-blue plywood. A peek inside revealed no activity.

"It's insane," Musher said.

Amtrak owns the building and is responsible for its maintenance. The company would not provide details on how long equipment at the station has been out of order. It also declined necn's request for an interview, but did send a statement.

The statement said work to fix the elevators and escalators kicked off six months ago, in April, but "...there is a long lead-time required for engineering, fabrication and installation of specific components."

Peter Allan, a plumber from North Attleboro who often has heavy bags slung over his shoulder, said of the delays, "It doesn't make any sense."

In its statement, Amtrak said the station's elevators were removed from service at the end of July, but came back online Aug. 31.

That's curious, says Sarah Nadarajah of Westwood, who had small children and a stroller in tow.

"There's actually only one elevator working today," she said.

The elevator connecting the platforms to the upper concourse was working when necn visited, but yellow caution tape blocked one of only two elevators in the main station. Travelers with luggage and commuters trying to hustle home had to hoof it up or down the stairs or wait in the growing queue for the operational elevator.

Arielle Smith travels on Amtrak about once a month from New York City to see her mother in Stoughton. She says the broken equipment is an irritant,

"It's a bit of a schlep to get everything up one flight of stairs and down another flight of stairs."

Nicole Kirwan of Braintree says it's more than an irritant to some. "People are coming in with luggage. There are people with disabilities." 

In the statement, Amtrak said, "we did arrange for and provide alternate transportation to the front of the station via shuttle van and had extra station personnel on hand to assist passengers as needed." Necn did not see any signage or personnel alerting travelers to the service, but commuters say a shuttle is a band aid and they want more.

"Seems like a simple fix to be done and it doesn't seem to ever be corrected," said Bartlett, the commuter from Canton. "After all these years, it's too bad."

There is no word on when the broken elevator will be fixed, but Amtrak says they expect full restoration of escalator service early next year and appreciate their customers' patience. Patience, that for some, is wearing thin.

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