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Commuter rail operator improves performance

Quietly, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. is having a good year. The MBTA contractor came under heavy fire last winter for a slew of breakdowns that left thousands repeatedly stranded on the coldest and snowiest days.

A few months later, a Globe investigation showed MBCR - which is paid more than $250 million a year to run the MBTA commuter rail service - had benefited from contract amendments that watered down penalties for delayed trains.

Now, MBCR is poised to record its best month since April 2006. Through midday Friday, 95 percent of trains in February reached their destination within five minutes of the schedule - that’s the real percentage experienced by commuters, not the adjusted percentage, a figure that takes into account weather, medical emergencies, and other problems MBCR is not liable for under the contract.


The mild weather has played a part, but the performance is due also to greater investment by the T and MBCR and better deployment of resources, led by new General Manager Hugh Kiley, who was baptized by fire after being hired just before last winter.

The MBTA invested part of its strained capital budget in a new truck shop, to speed repairs of the components that keep trains moving. Coupled with MBCR’s investment in more staff, the better-maintained fleet has allowed Kiley & Co. to deploy the system’s few spare trains to the end of lines.

That way, failures in the morning do not create reverberating delays down the schedule.

“The whole focus here is doing the right thing at the right time with the right people and the right equipment, to take care of our service and improve performance for the ridership,’’ said Kiley, a nuts-and-bolts railroader who started as a brakeman in 1970 and has held an array of freight and passenger rail posts.


Eric Moskowitz can be reached at emoskowitz@globe.com.