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MBTA looks for new commuter rail operator amid systemwide service concerns

State officials said they did not intend to renew the contract with Keolis, which is set to expire in 2022.
Keolis currently operates the MBTA's commuter rail service. Wikmedia Commons

Keolis, the company that manages the state's commuter rail service, didn't have many fans after the winter of 2015, when severe snow and weather led to massive delays in Boston and throughout the system.

Things haven't gotten much better, and on Thursday, transportation officals said that Gov. Charlie Baker's administration did not intend to renew the contract with the operator, which is set to expire in June 2022.

Keolis Commuter Services has been working with the MBTA since 2014, the last year of former Gov. Deval Patrick's administration. Keolis' eight-year contract with the MBTA is worth $2.86 billion, according to the State House News Service, and included a pair of two-year extension options.

Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack explained the decision was made now because the process for acquiringa new vendor takes two years. The authority would start considering its next steps in 2019.

Pollack told the news service that the state would honor the existing eight-year contract, and that the advance notice provides ample time to begin a bidding process for a new contract. She did not rule out Keolis winning a new contract.

Pollack took pains to say the state's decision not to renew the contract with the French company was not a comment on its performance, telling the Boston Globethat she even expects Keolis to compete for the new bid.

But other officials were less encouraging, citing the discontent among passengers statewide over the commuter rail's performance.

In October, Mattapoisett Democrat Rep. William Straus wrote to Pollack about the service problems and how Keolis was partly to blame.

"More than two years have passed since Keolis assumed operations, and their delivery of services, even apart from the 2015 winter issues, has raised a number of management concerns, which I believe are derived from the nature of the contract itself," Straus wrote, according to the State House News Service.

Keolis Commuter Services General Manager David Scorey spoke at a Transportation Committee oversight hearing on Thursday defending the contract, saying that there is "nothing that I would say needs to fundamentally change right now," according to the news service.

 

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