Providence/Stoughton Line

The Providence/Stoughton Line is an MBTA Commuter Rail service in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, primarily serving the southwestern suburbs of Boston. Most service runs entirely on the Northeast Corridor between South Station in Boston and Providence station or Wickford Junction station in Rhode Island, while the Stoughton Branch splits at Canton Junction and terminates at Stoughton. It is the longest MBTA Commuter Rail line, and the only one that operates outside Massachusetts. The line is the busiest on the MBTA Commuter Rail system, with 25,728 daily boardings by a 2018 count.[1]

Providence/Stoughton Line
Northbound MBTA train departing Route 128 station (2), June 2017.JPG
A Providence/Stoughton Line train at Route 128 station
OwnerMBTA (within Massachusetts)
Amtrak (within Rhode Island)
LocaleSoutheastern Massachusetts
Rhode Island
TerminiSouth Station
Wickford Junction, Stoughton
SystemMBTA Commuter Rail
Operator(s)Keolis North America
Daily ridership25,728 (2018)[1]
Line length62.9 miles (101.2 km) (South Station–Wickford Junction)
18.9 miles (30.4 km) (South Station–Stoughton)[2]
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map

0.0 mi
0 km
South Station
Silver Line (MBTA) MBTA Commuter Rail Amtrak
1.2 mi
1.9 km
Back Bay
MBTA Commuter Rail Amtrak
2.2 mi
3.5 km
MBTA Commuter Rail
6.5 mi
10.5 km
Mount Hope (closed 1979)
8.4 mi
13.5 km
9.5 mi
15.3 km
11.4 mi
18.3 km
Route 128
14.8 mi
23.8 km
Canton Junction
Stoughton Branch
15.6 mi
25.1 km
Canton Center
18.9 mi
30.4 km
17.9 mi
28.8 km
22.4 mi
36 km
East Foxboro (closed 1977)
(special events only)
24.7 mi
39.8 km
31.8 mi
51.2 km
36.8 mi
59.2 km
South Attleboro
Providence and
Worcester Railroad
39.5 mi
63.6 km
43.6 mi
70.2 km
51.9 mi
83.5 km
T. F. Green Airport
T.F. Green Airport
62.9 mi
101.2 km
Wickford Junction
70.6 mi
113.6 km
Kingston (proposed) Amtrak

The portion between Boston and Providence was originally built by the Boston and Providence Railroad between 1834 and 1847. The portion south of Providence was built by the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad in 1837, while the Stoughton Branch was built by the Stoughton Branch Railroad in 1845. The lines were acquired by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in the 1890s.

The MBTA began subsidizing service in the 1960s, and purchased the infrastructure and rolling stock from Penn Central in 1973. Service was cut back to Attleboro in 1981, but rush-hour service returned as far as Providence in 1988 under an agreement with the state of Rhode Island. Off-peak service to Rhode Island resumed in 2000. An extension south from Providence opened to T. F. Green Airport in 2010 and to Wickford Junction in 2012. All stations have been made accessible with high-level platforms. Newer stations like T.F. Green Airport, as well as stations shared with Amtrak, largely have full-length high level platforms; older stations have mostly been retrofitted with "mini-high" platforms one car length long.


An Attleboro/Stoughton Line train in 1982
South Attleboro station opened in 1990. This photograph was taken in 2013.

The Boston and Providence Railroad (B&P) opened between Boston and Sprague Mansion in 1834, and on to Providence in 1835. A new line between Providence and East Junction via Central Falls, shared with the Providence and Worcester Railroad south of Central Falls, opened in October 1847. The B&P was leased by the Old Colony Railroad in 1888; the Old Colony was in turn leased by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1893.[3]

At the peak of service around the turn of the century, weekday service included six Boston–Providence local round trips, seven round trips from Taunton and New Bedford via Mansfield, 62 Boston–Forest Hills round trips running every 15 minutes, 12 Boston–Dedham round trips via Readville and 24 via West Roxbury, and 11 intercity round trips from beyond Providence. Connections to additional branch line trains were made at Canton Junction, Mansfield, and East Junction.[3] Forest Hills service was soon decimated by the competing Washington Street Elevated; branch line service declined in the 1920s and 1930s. Further reductions occurred after World War II; cuts in July 1959 reduced Providence service from 12 to nine round trips, Dedham service to one round trip, and Stoughton service to two round trips.[3][4]

MBTA eraEdit

On December 31, 1968, the recently formed Penn Central bought the failing New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The MBTA bought the section of the Providence–Boston line in Massachusetts, as well as many other lines including the Stoughton Branch, from Penn Central on January 27, 1973. On April 1, 1976 Conrail took over Penn Central and the commuter rail equipment was sold to the MBTA. Conrail continued to operate the line under contract to the MBTA until 1977, when the Boston and Maine Railroad became the sole contractor for all MBTA commuter rail service. Full subsidies by the MBTA for the Providence and Stoughton lines began on September 28, 1976, before which the Federal government helped. On March 31, 1977, the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority and Rhode Island Department of Transportation began to subsidize service beyond the MBTA district, and Stoughton began to pay to keep its station open, that cost later going to the Brockton Area Transit Authority.

On November 3, 1979, the line was closed north of Readville for long-term reconstruction as part of the Southwest Corridor project. All trains began using what is now the Fairmount Line, and special shuttle trains connected South Station to Back Bay. The new line, rebuilt below grade with space for three tracks (the old one had been above grade with room for four tracks), opened on October 5, 1987.[5] The Orange Line shares the corridor between Back Bay and Forest Hills.

After Rhode Island cut back its subsidy, Sunday service was truncated to Attleboro in October 1977, with off-peak and Saturday service following suit in April 1979. On February 20, 1981, the MBTA stopped serving Rhode Island altogether after that state declined to renew its subsidy.[5] On September 17, 1986, Massachusetts and Rhode Island reached an agreement to resume service.[6] Rush-hour service to Rhode Island was restored on February 1, 1988. On June 20, 1990, a new stop opened in South Attleboro and most trains were extended to the station; regular Sunday service returned in 1992.[5]

In 1990, a northbound commuter train was involved in a collision with a northbound Night Owl train. The accident, which occurred to the west of Back Bay station, injured over four hundred people, although there were no fatalities.[7]

Some off-peak weekday trains were extended to Providence starting on December 11, 2000.[5] On July 24, 2006, the MBTA increased weekday Providence service from 11 to 15 daily round trips. Weekend service to Providence resumed on July 29, and a new layover facility was opened in Pawtucket.[8][9][10]


Map of South County Commuter Rail project, showing the extension to T.F. Green Airport and Wickford Junction

As part of the South County Commuter Rail initiative, a 20-mile extension past Providence to T. F. Green Airport and Wickford Junction in Rhode Island is now fully open. The T. F. Green Airport part of the extension opened in December 2010, with Wickford Junction service beginning in April 2012.[11]

A further 24-mile extension is under consideration by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. Possible stops include Cranston and East Greenwich, plus existing Amtrak stations in Kingston and Westerly and a possible revival of the Pawtucket/Central Falls station. Rhode Island eventually plans to have its own statewide commuter service along the Northeast Corridor that would connect with MBTA service and an extension of Shore Line East.[12] This would be the first commuter service to Westerly since the last state-sponsored train was run in December 1979.[5] A passing siding and new platforms at Kingston, completed in 2017, may enable extension of some trains there in the near term.[13]

Amtrak electrified the Providence Line in 2000, but the MBTA has not utilized this. In 2019, the MBTA had preliminary discussions with Amtrak about leasing Siemens ACS-64 electric locomotives to test on the Providence Line.[14] A 1.7 miles (2.7 km) section of non-electrified platform sidings at Attleboro, not included in the initial Amtrak electrification, is being electrified to support future electric MBTA operations.[15] The second phase of the South Coast Rail project, planned for 2030, will electrify the Stoughton Branch and extend it to Taunton, where it will continue on 2023-opened branches to Fall River and New Bedford.

Special event serviceEdit

In August 1971, the MBTA began operating Boston–Foxboro and Providence–Foxboro service for events at the new Foxboro Stadium. Providence service was soon discontinued, but Boston service remained in operation.[5] By the early 1990s, these trains operated over the Providence/Stoughton Line, with intermediate stops at Back Bay, Route 128, Canton Junction, Sharon, and Mansfield; a reverse move was made at Mansfield to access the Framingham Secondary.[16] Providence–Foxboro event service resumed in 1994, with intermediate stops at South Attleboro, Attleboro, and Mansfield; Boston–Foxboro service was rerouted over the Franklin Line.[5][17][18] Event service was extended to T.F. Green Airport in 2012, but cut back to Providence in 2019.[19][20]

COVID-19 pandemicEdit

Substantially reduced schedules were in effect from March 16 to June 23, 2020.[5] Service changes effective November 2, 2020, shifted some peak service to off-peak, providing 60-minute all-day headways between Providence and Boston.[21] Reduced schedules were again put in effect on December 14, 2020.[22][5] As part of a schedule change on January 23, 2021, Sunday morning Boston–Providence service began operation for the first time since the New Haven era.[23] On February 26, 2021, South Attleboro station was temporarily closed due to structural deterioration.[5] Full service was restored on April 5, 2021.[24] As part of that schedule change, all Providence/Stoughton Line trains began stopping at Ruggles station after an additional platform there was completed.[25][26] Additionally, the final Providence-bound train on weekdays began stopping at Forest Hills station to provide a transfer to a shuttle train to Needham.[27][28]


As of the summer of 2021, 20 outbound trains run on the main branch between South Station and Providence, 10 of which continue to Wickford Junction; 15 outbound trains run between South Station and Stoughton. Inbound, 10 trains originate in Providence, 10 in Wickford Junction, and 16 in Stoughton.[29]

The main branch forms the far northern leg of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, with all Acela Express trains and all Northeast Regional routes between Boston and New York City running along this line. South Station, Back Bay, Route 128 and Providence have long ranked among the busiest Amtrak stations in the country.

Ownership and financingEdit

The MBTA owns the track from Boston to the Rhode Island border, while Amtrak owns all track in Rhode Island. The entire line is part of the Northeast Corridor.

As part of the 1988[30] Pilgrim Partnership Agreement, Rhode Island provides capital funding (including some of its federal formula funds) for MBTA expansion in the state. Massachusetts (through the MBTA) provides the operating subsidy for MBTA Commuter Rail service in return.[31] Rhode Island also pays Amtrak to allow the MBTA to use its tracks.[32]

Station listingEdit

Commuter rail platform at Ruggles station
Platforms and station building at Mansfield
Crumbling station at Pawtucket/Central Falls, last used in 1981
State Fare zone Location Mile (km)[2][33] Station Connections and notes
MA 1A Boston 0.0 (0.0)   South Station   Amtrak: Acela, Lake Shore Limited, Northeast Regional
  MBTA Commuter Rail: Fairmount, Framingham/Worcester, Franklin, Greenbush, Old Colony, and Needham lines; CapeFlyer (seasonal)
  MBTA subway: Red Line; Silver Line (SL1, SL2, SL3, SL4)
  MBTA bus: 4, 7, 11
  Intercity buses at South Station Bus Terminal
1.2 (1.9)   Back Bay   Amtrak: Acela Express, Lake Shore Limited, Northeast Regional
  MBTA Commuter Rail: Framingham/Worcester, Franklin, and Needham lines
  MBTA subway: Orange Line
  MBTA bus: 10, 39, 170
2.2 (3.5)   Ruggles   MBTA Commuter Rail: Franklin and Needham lines
  MBTA subway: Orange Line
  MBTA bus: 8, 15, 19, 22, 23, 28, 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, CT2, CT3
5.0 (8.0)   Forest Hills Served by Needham Line and Orange Line trains only
6.5 (10.5) Mount Hope Closed November 2, 1979
1 8.4 (13.5)   Hyde Park   MBTA bus: 32, 33, 50, 192
2 9.5 (15.3)   Readville Served by Fairmount Line and Franklin Line trains only
Westwood 11.4 (18.3)   Route 128   Amtrak: Acela Express, Northeast Regional
3 Canton 14.8 (23.8)   Canton Junction Split with Stoughton Branch
4 Sharon 17.9 (28.8)   Sharon
Foxborough 23.0 (37.0) East Foxboro Closed November 1977
6 Mansfield 24.7 (39.8)   Mansfield   GATRA: 140
7 Attleboro 31.8 (51.2)   Attleboro   GATRA: 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 24
36.8 (59.2)   South Attleboro Temporarily closed on February 26, 2021
  RIPTA: 1, 35
RI Pawtucket 39.0 (62.8) Pawtucket–​Central Falls Closed February 19, 1981
39.5 (63.6) Pawtucket/Central Falls Under construction; planned to open in 2022
8 Providence 43.6 (70.2)   Providence   Amtrak: Acela Express, Northeast Regional
  RIPTA: R-Line, 50, 55, 56, 57, 62
9 Warwick 51.9 (83.5)   T.F. Green Airport   RIPTA: 1, 8, 14, 20
10 North Kingstown 62.9 (101.2)   Wickford Junction   RIPTA: 65X, 66
  Currently operating station

Stoughton BranchEdit

State Fare zone Location Mile (km)[2] Station Connections and notes
MA 3 Canton 15.0 (24.1)   Canton Junction Splits from main line (Northeast Corridor)
15.6 (25.1)   Canton Center   MBTA bus: 716
4 Stoughton 18.9 (30.4)   Stoughton   BAT: 14
  Currently operating station


  1. ^ a b "Commuter Rail Ridership Counts" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. January 28, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Humphrey, Thomas J.; Clark, Norton D. (1985). Boston's Commuter Rail: The First 150 Years. Boston Street Railway Association. pp. 29–37. ISBN 9780685412947.
  4. ^ "Alpert Lops Off 18 Providence to Hub Trains". Boston Globe. July 3, 1959. p. 7 – via
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Belcher, Jonathan. "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district" (PDF). Boston Street Railway Association.
  6. ^ Sanborn, George M. (1992). A Chronicle of the Boston Transit System. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority – via Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  7. ^ Railroad Accident Report RAR-92-01: Derailment and Collision of Amtrak Passenger Train 66 with MBTA Commuter Train 906 at Back Bay Station, Boston, Massachusetts, December 12, 1990. National Transportation Safety Board. February 25, 1992.
  8. ^ "MBTA Expanding Train Service To Providence On Weekdays, Introducing New Service On Weekends" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. July 14, 2006.
  9. ^ Castellucci, John (25 April 2006). "Planned rail yard will expand routes, relieve neighbors". Providence Journal. Archived from the original on 24 September 2009.
  10. ^ "MBTA, U.S. Senator Jack Reed, RI Governor Carcieri, RIDOT Officially Open Pawtucket Layover Facility" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. August 2, 2006.
  11. ^ Samantha, Turner (4 November 2010). "Commuter Rail Station To Open In 2012". North Kingston Patch. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  12. ^ Edwards and Kelcey, Inc (July 2001). "South County Commuter Rail Service: Operations Plan" (PDF). Rhode Island Department of Transportation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  13. ^ Barrett, Chris (31 December 2009). "Kingston MBTA stop project proposed". Providence Business News. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  14. ^ Vaccaro, Adam (March 21, 2019). "Take the E-train? MBTA mulling electric locomotives". Boston Globe.
  15. ^ Sawers, Alistair (January 25, 2021). "Regional/Urban Rail Transformation Update" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. p. 10.
  16. ^ "MBTA rail service is available to Patriots games". Boston Globe. September 12, 1993. p. 39 – via  
  17. ^ Hernandez, Efrain (June 17, 1994). "How to get to the game". Boston Globe. p. 108 – via  
  18. ^ Smith, Sean (September 14, 1997). "If you're going to the game..." Boston Globe. p. 64 – via  
  19. ^ "Riding the T: Patriots". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on September 19, 2012.
  20. ^ "Gillette Stadium". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on August 22, 2019.
  21. ^ DiAdamo, Rob (September 14, 2020). "Fall 2020 Commuter Rail Schedule Changes" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  22. ^ "Commuter Rail to Temporarily Operate Reduced Service Schedule Starting December 14" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. December 10, 2021.
  23. ^ "Providence/Stoughton Line 2021 Winter Schedule" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. January 23, 2021.
  24. ^ "Reminder: Spring 2021 Commuter Rail Schedules Take Effect April 5" (Press release). Keolis Commuter Services. April 1, 2021.
  25. ^ "Ruggles Elevators and Commuter Rail Platform Now Complete" (Press release). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. April 7, 2021.
  26. ^ "Ruggles/Back Bay/South Station: Spring 2021 Schedule" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. April 5, 2021.
  27. ^ "Needham Line Spring 2021 Schedule" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. April 5, 2021.
  28. ^ "Providence/Stoughton Line Spring 2021 Schedule" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. April 5, 2021.
  29. ^ Summer 2021 schedule
  30. ^ "COMMUTER RAIL SERVICE TO WARWICK'S T.F. GREEN STATION UNDERWAY". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 8 December 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  31. ^ "South County Commuter Rail". Federal Transit Administration. 2011. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  32. ^ Bierman, Noah (10 September 2009). "Vote set on T link to R.I. airport". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  33. ^ Held, Patrick R. (2010). "Massachusetts Bay Colony Railroad Track Charts" (PDF). Johns Hopkins Association for Computing Machinery. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 October 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2012.

External linksEdit

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