MBTA (T) fines Keolis for late and dirty trains...


Trainzing since 12-2003

The MBTA, Massachusetts' mass-transit and commuter rail operating agency, affectionately known as the "T" has fined Keolis over 600K for late and dirty trains and of other shoddy things. Keolis was hired to run the commuter rail while the T still operates the Boston core subway, trolley, bus, and trolley bus services. The T attempted a higher fine, but Keolis claimed and the T conceded, that the 4 major snowstorms weren't their fault for the poor service, however, the other fines remain.

Hi John and everybody.
I very much have to give a big “well done” to the MBTA for imposing this penalty on Keolis for what sounds like an appalling service provided to its customers. For too long in public transport suppliers have believed they can get away with just about anything in the way of service to travellers while still retaining their franchises and contracts with no questions being asked by the powers that be.

There is no excuse for operating dirty trains and then compounding that by also running them late. There is obviously some credence in Keolis argument that they were not responsible for the severe snowstorms that have affected North America this winter. However, often lack of maintenance or poor maintenance when it is carried out can affect the performance of vehicles in severe weather. Simple things such as not fully draining the brake system air reserve tanks regularly will allow moisture to build up in the tanks and valves of the system which obviously will freeze in severe weather.

Within the foregoing, I am a person who passionately believes that railways are the future of mass passenger transport to the betterment of all involved. However, if those railways are to provide a real alternative to the car they must be fast, efficient, clean and punctual and in that way attract commuters to regularly use their services.

Perhaps the penalties imposed on Keolis will make other train operating companies who provide shoddy, dirty and disgusting services think about sorting themselves out if only for the sake of their profits. When the penalties imposed by the transport authorities or the courts make providing a good service more profitable than running a despicable poor operation born out on the back of the thought “cut the cost of everything we can and don’t worry about the passengers”. When those thoughts change we always see progress in passenger rail transport.

The key is to keep hitting these companies who do not perform to a good standard again and again with further penalties until they decide to raise their standards, go bust or get out. I am sure in the US as it has been here in the UK, no rail commuter will shed any tears for a train operator who succumbs to the latter two options of the above three.

Too many enthusiasts look back into the past and believe that to be the great days of railways. Not so, the great days of passenger railways will be in the future if all those involved in its operation not only meet what is expected of them but Excel that by way of performance. The foregoing will have people using the railways as part of their everyday lives bringing about a better environment in our towns and cities by way of less pollution, traffic congestion and general fitness.

It’s happening here in the UK, with different parameters it can happen I am sure in the United States.

To prove the point, posted from the 18:12 Birmingham new Street to Bristol Temple Meads, Voyager cross-country service, running smoothly on time, very clean and I am enjoying a nice glass of cider as we arrive into Bristol. Far better than driving? YES, most definitely

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This situation is a bit more than what's being said in the news article. I agree that Keolis should not have been fined for the delays during the storms. The "T" upper management and politicos needed to save face over their contract choice, and chose to throw this tidbit in. When all this occurred, we had a new governor come into office. So far he's proven to be a typical corporate hack and a blamer. Instead he just pointed fingers at everyone else except himself...I used to work with characters like this in my days in the corporate world. They make big mistakes, squirm and yell at everyone around them, but never take the heat.

So Mr. Useless Big Pants makes a big grand stand. He ranted and raved on TV that he was going to get to the bottom of this. He's the big boy now and The Governor, and he's going to prove how big his pants are! Blah, blah, blah heads will roll, etc. This went on for a week, and then longer after that with the local news interviewing the people at every train station they could find. Eventually it got to a point that it was as though they were interviewing the cigarette butts and chewing gum wrappers in the gutter as they tried to keep this issue in the news. They kept this up how bad the "T" is and how they shouldn't have let things get this bad. There were no experts; just the usual reporting hacks with "inside news". Oh, the poor riders the news went on to say, and like all news it got to a point where we were ignoring the reports. Eventually the issue disappeared just as quickly as they tried to make it into a bigger one.

Heads had to roll... So to save face, the first on the chopping block was the T director. She was also new to the job, having been hired just after the contract was signed for Keolis. However, she had to go so they blamed the tram and subway service problems on her. The clean up crew couldn't work fast enough themselves to remove the snow and it piled up over the third rails and jammed the switches. With the third-rail covered, the surface lines, such as the outer ends of both the Orange and Red lines, stalled. Trains were stuck and people had to walk a mile to the next station in the snow, at the height of a blizzard. Oh it was her fault the tracks filled up with snow. If the governor had declared a state of emergency, the services and roads would have been closed, people would have been forced to stay home, and things could have been cleaned up. But being the newbie he is, he didn't do that so blamed everyone else for failing.

Regarding Keolis having the contract, you'll like this and it probably sounds familiar too. Prior to Keolis coming on the scene, the MBTA had Mass Bay Commuter Rail or MBCR running the show. This outfit won the contract over Amtrak and Guilford (Pan Am) who no one wanted near the passenger service. MBCR had its share of issues, but nothing compared to this company. When the contract was up, the "T" politicians couldn't wait long enough to ditch them. They posted some quick contracts, however, it was more like a no-bid scheme since no one else wanted the job because the bidding price was ridiculously too low. The rumor is that Keolis was already in the running and this is typical of how many state jobs are done here. The political committee had already made up their mind and went through the motions to make everything look legal. So they got their just rewards and unfortunately we're stuck with the group until they can find someone else.