Commuter Rail Operator Fined $434,000 for Poor On-Time Performance

They've had some early struggles getting comfortable in their new role, but Keolis is determined to improve their record.

The new operator of the Commuter Rail lines has been penalized nearly half-a-million dollars in the first four months since it took over for failing to meet contractual requirements it made with the MBTA in regards to its on-time performance, according to transit officials.

“After four months of running the MBTA Commuter Rail, October was a disappointing month for Keolis and our passengers, but we’re determined to improve,” said Mac Daniel, a spokesman for Keolis Commuter Rail Services, a subdivision of a worldwide transit agency with operations in the U.S. that took over in July after winning a $2.6 billion contract with the T.

Daniel said in the first three months of service, the company “equaled” the best on-time performance in the past five years, but October “set us back.”

Performance “scorecards” archived by the MBTA on their website show that in October, Keolis had an 85 percent on-time performance rate, which was lower than the 91 percent performance rate of the former operators, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail company, the same time last year.

According to the MBTA, which has met with Keolis representatives to discuss the scheduling issues, “On-Time” tracking is used to measure the Commuter Rail’s overall standards. A train is considered on time if it arrives less than five minutes after the scheduled arrival.

As part of their contract with the MBTA, Keolis can be fined up to $12 million per year in disincentives for shoddy service. But the company is determined to make sure their trains arrival times improve from here on out.

“Everyone at Keolis and the MBTA, from our engineering and mechanical staff to customer service, is working very hard to improve on-time performance system wide, and we’re dedicated to get our passengers where they need to go safely and on time in the months and years to come,” said Daniel.

Despite the hefty fines so early into their contract, the MBTA is giving Keolis the benefit of the doubt.

MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo said it was “too early” to draw conclusions about the company’s performance times, since they are just four months into an eight-year contract. “As everyone knows, the previous Commuter Rail operator experienced a number of highs and lows over the term of its contract,” said Pesaturo.

Looking back at the MBCR’s performance times, they, too, had struggles when they began operating the Commuter Rail on behalf of the MBTA.

In 2007, MBCR had an 80% on-time arrival rate, according to MBTA data. That number dropped to 69 percent by October. The following year, they had an 82 percent on-time rate in July, and 83 percent by October.

In comparison, Keolis had an 88 percent on-time arrival rate during their first month as operators in July, and their October rate, just four months later, was on schedule 85 percent of the time.

“[Keolis] is well aware of the areas on which they need to focus, and the MBTA is confident that they will continue to make progress in achieving the highest quality of customer service that every commuter deserves,” Pesaturo said.