Councilor Again Airs Idling Train Concerns; Turn to Beacon Hill

Haverhill City Council Vice President and Citizens Outreach Committee Chairperson Melinda E. Barrett.

A Haverhill City Council subcommittee will look to commuter rail operators and Beacon Hill to help bring relief to Bradford residents’ renewed complaints over noise and fumes from idling engines at a train layover facility.

During a Citizens Outreach Committee meeting Thursday, representatives from commuter rail operator Keolis, as well as the MBTA, agreed to begin “random auditing” of trains at the Bradford layover and provide an on-call contact “for immediate response to issues,” according to Haverhill City Council Vice President and Committee Chairperson Melinda E. Barrett.  Also, the committee approved a recommendation to send letters asking Gov. Charlie Baker, legislators and the transportation secretary to discuss “long term plans and mitigation” at the layover site. Barrett told WHAV, rail management, while not onsite, can access on-board software to obtain operation reports.

“They can get the data of how long it takes to shut a train down. They have procedures they must follow and usually it takes about 50 minutes to shut a train down or start a train up. And if somebody’s being a little (lax) or distracted they can look at the data and the reports the maintainer or engineer produces and see if there was an issue or they were just not quite following procedure,” Barrett said.

Barrett added, while a telephone contact to Keolis is being made available, the layover “situation is still there.” She said the next move is to open dialogue with the governor, secretary of transportation and legislators for either “some mitigation or movement of the layover.”

“The people in Bradford have no mitigation right now. There’s not a sound wall, the neighbors really don’t want a barn because that makes it more permanent. If the state or the MBTA is having trouble finding a suitable layover station then maybe that’s the way to go, even if it’s only for 10 years, if they can’t move it right away. They don’t have a spot right now. They can’t find a spot, in my opinion. They thought they had a spot in Plaistow and it fell apart,” Barrett said.

As WHAV reported April 6, the full council agreed to have the committee revisit an agreement reached two years ago among officials, in order to improve responses to residents’ noise and odor complaints. Barrett had pointed to, what she called, “underwhelming” responses from the rail agencies and the Environmental Protection Agency to a misfiring diesel train engine at the layover in February.

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