WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — While rail service is still in the works, Boston Surface Railroad Company (BSRC) announced an inter-city bus service is coming by February 2020.
BSRC President Vincent Bono says the fleet of five motor coaches will run from Woonsocket to Providence and Worcester, Mass.
Bono says tickets will be available on the BSRC website as early as January. To start, Bono says there will be seven round trips from Woonsocket and four round trips from Worcester daily.
The buses will serve as a backup service to rail service, which Bono says is coming 12 to 16 months after buses are up and running.
“Inclement weather and issues happen, so we want to be able to back up the service and get people home safely,” Bono said.
As for the wait, Bono says while the company was founded in 2013, BSRC did not receive operational authority until 2016 and that the company was “doing pretty well in terms of time schedule.”
“The MBTA’s shortest route, which is really just adding stops to an existing route, the Fairmount line, took the T nine years,” Bono said.
Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and BSRC have been at odds. In June 2019, RIDOT won a judgment of eviction in district court against the Boston Surface Railroad Company concerning the Woonsocket Railroad Depot, which RIDOT owns.
A spokesperson for RIDOT told Eyewitness News there were three reasons it pursued legal action, and allege BSRC failed to make its lease payments for over a year. Secondly, RIDOT says it has plans to use the property for its own purposes. Third, RIDOT wanted to make sure that the Polar Express could continue its operations out of the facility.
“During the past four years, there has been no concrete movement made toward establishing a legitimate railroad system of which we are aware and which Mr. Bono claimed he was moving toward,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said.
On Monday, Bono acknowledged the company has had some hurdles financially and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 6.
“That actually puts us in stronger financial shape, although we’re not discharging any debt, we’re not paying anybody. We filed purely to protect our rights under our 15-year lease in this building,” Bono said of the station at Depot Square.
Bono told Eyewitness News the filing is an automatic stay period but added a plan should be published and voted on within the next 30 to 90 days.
RIDOT says it has “had no discussion with Mr. Bono, nor did it give approval at any time for him to use the depot for bus service.”
In response, Bono said the BSRC doesn’t need RIDOT’s permission to operate the bus service, saying “it is entirely consistent with our leasehold interests.”
Bono says BSRC is still hoping to run a test train in late 2020 or early 2021. He says once that happens, passenger service could start three to six months later.
Bono told Eyewitness News the total price tag for the project is about $6 million, and about $1.8 million has been spent so far.