Governor Charlie Baker added to the criticism of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s biggest contractor Thursday, saying Keolis Commuter Services must “up their game” after struggling to run the commuter rail in the aftermath of last week’s storm.
“I have issues with how the commuter rail handled this stuff and the way Keolis handled it,” Baker said at an event in Beverly, according to a transcript provided by his office.
The T also criticized the French company after only a third of commuter rail trips Friday arrived at their stations on time.
In reply, Keolis General Manager David Scorey said, “We apologize and assure our passengers it won’t happen again.”
He said the service suffered Friday because snow clearing at a maintenance facility “ran late.” “It’s particularly disappointing because we cleared all platforms and all other facilities effectively through the night after the storm, but we fell short in this critical area,” he said.
Luis Ramirez, the T’s general manager, said Keolis had failed to establish an emergency response center that would allow for easier communication and quicker action when the weather affected service.
This week, Keolis has run a reduced schedule on the Newburyport/Rockport commuter line, while it clears tracks after saltwater flooded the line during the snowstorm Thursday. Passengers on the South Shore have also complained about crowding after closures to the Wollaston Red Line station and damaged Hingham ferry shifted more travelers to the commuter rail.
The governor’s office later clarified that Baker’s complaints were aimed at the delays and cancallations after the storm Friday, and not about the the subsequent problems on the Newbury/Rockport line.
While the commuter rail struggled after the storm, MBTA officials have otherwise said they are pleased with the agency’s response to snow and cold last week — even though subway service was also diminished in the days following the storm. Also, over the weekend, Ramirez suggested in a pair of tweets he later deleted that the T and other major infrastructure systems struggle to operate in extreme conditions.
The T and Keolis have had an at-times adversarial relationship since the company took over the rail system in 2014. In recent months, state officials have criticized the company’s handling of an investigation following a safety incident and its inconsistent on-time rate even in normal weather.
The T also announced in 2017 — five years in advance — that it would not pick up an optional extension on Keolis’s eight-year, $2.7 billion contract when it expires in 2022. Keolis has said it will probably bid on the next contract.
In September, the MBTA brought back a former general manager, Daniel Grabauskas, to work more closely with Keolis in a bid to improve service.Adam Vaccaro can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.