1) Short sets / coach shortages: The manager I spoke with claimed their full complement is 359 coaches in service. Their interim goal from the shortages this summer was to have 344 in service as of Labor Day, which is a metric he claimed they met. The next goal is to have 350 in service by Monday 9/14. These numbers are slightly different than those reported on the NE Transit inventory page. The manager acknowledged that 4-coach sets will still be in service on some trips until they can reach the full complement of coaches. We didn't have any more detailed discussion about the causes or long-term outlook.
2) Have you ever noticed the small section of rails that have been removed from the track just adjacent to the single track through the Beacon Park railyard? You can actually see the missing rail on Google Maps. The manager explained that those rails were removed because they matched a type of rail needed for a repair on the Fitchburg main line. The rail was removed from the Beacon Park yard since it was not needed there. If you didn't know, there are a variety of rail types.
3) Natick Center flooding: An upcoming replacement of the rail at CP 21 (the set of switches just east of Framingham station) will require taking one of the tracks out of service from Weston to Framingham. While they are doing that rail replacement project, the manager stated that they plan on upgrading one of the stormwater pipes at Natick Center from 16" to 24" diameter in an effort to further mitigate the flooding there (the capacity of a 24" pipe is more than twice that of a 16" pipe). And why is track 2 lower than track 1 through Natick Center? Since the Framingham-Worcester line is still rated for freight service, track 2 is kept at that elevation to allow for higher freight trains to pass under the bridges in that area.
4) Speaking of freight trains, the manager claims that approximately once a month, CSX moves wide load freight trains from Worcester to Framingham. This requires Keolis to 'drop' the removable high level platforms from the 'mini-high' platforms at Worcester, Grafton, Westborough, Southborough, and Ashland. Once in Framingham, the freight trains can be routed into the freight yards (bypassing the actual Framingham station) and then usually go north or south from Framingham (not east past the West Natick station). I always knew why those platforms were removable, but I had no idea that wide loads were so frequently moved across the line. You may also notice that the Yawkey station was constructed with full length permanent high level platforms. This will prevent wide load freight trains from moving past Yawkey - and the removal of 'freight rights' over that section of track was part of the Yawkey station project. What's a wide load on a freight train? There are lots, like these planes that get moved across the western US (unless they fall into a river), but we're more likely to see electrical transformers.
5) Heat restrictions: The manager confirmed what I have previously reported: that track 2 from Worcester to Framingham is not scheduled for repairs / rail replacement at this time. Unless something changes, and that work is funded and released before next summer, heat restrictions will affect that section of track next summer (and into the future). This confirms my table of heat restriction effects in the most recent post below.
6) The current construction activities near CP 3 (the switch just west of Yawkey that takes the line from 2 tracks near Yawkey to one track through Beacon Park / Allston) is unrelated to improvements or changes for the commuter rail. This project is the reconstruction of the Mass Ave. bridge over the Mass Pike and the commuter rail line.
7) The kind folks that run the @MBTA_CR twitter feed are real people, and quite nice! Remember not to take out your anger about the commuter rail problems on them (or your conductors).
...and with that, cue the accusations that I'm just a shill for Keolis or the MBTA (I'm NOT).