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Commuter rail weekend service reduced through Jan. 8

A man passes a Commuter Rail train as he arrives at South Station, Thursday, June 25, 2015. Staff photo by Angela Rowlings.
A man passes a Commuter Rail train as he arrives at South Station, Thursday, June 25, 2015. Staff photo by Angela Rowlings.
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BOSTON – Commuter rail service will remain sharply reduced on weekdays through Jan. 8 because of workforce shortages inflicted by COVID-19, the MBTA and commuter rail operator Keolis announced Wednesday.

A dozen out of 58 Keolis dispatchers are out of work, and MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said last week that roughly 50 employees at the commuter rail operator were absent due to COVID.

Starting Dec. 14, Keolis cut the number of weekday trains it ran from 541 to 246, at the time saying the changes would remain in place through at least Dec. 28.

The nearly two-week extension will keep the decline in place into the new year, during a stretch of holidays where officials say ridership tends to be lower.

“The MBTA and Keolis, like other employers in Massachusetts, have experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases since early December,” Keolis said in a statement. “Various departments have been impacted by these absences, including railroad dispatchers that control movement of trains across the Commuter Rail network.”

Like public transit across the MBTA and the country at large, the commuter rail network has been transporting significantly fewer passengers during the pandemic, and average ridership is down to about 13 percent of pre-COVID levels.

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