Jan. 09--The French company that will run Massachusetts' commuter rail system starting July 1 will face much higher penalties than the previous operator if trains don't run on time.
The state Department of Transportation's board of directors yesterday voted unanimously to award Keolis Commuter Services an eight-year, $2.69 billion contract, with the potential for two, two-year extensions that would bring the total to $4.28 billion.
"The new contract sets a 'no excuses' expectation that the operator will run the trains on time," MBTA General Manager Beverly A. Scott told the board. "In a major change, the new commuter rail contract does not include any incentive payments and, if performance standards are not met, imposes financial disincentives."
Keolis will be subject to penalties capped at more than $12 million per year for subpar performance such as late or dirty trains or trains without proper heating or air conditioning.
Under the current contract with the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., which has run the rail system since 2003, financial penalties are limited to $3 million per year and are offset by incentive payments.
The MBCR contract also automatically grants the company relief from on-time performance requirements if there is overcrowding on the platforms, disabled freight trains or slippery rail conditions caused by falling leaves.
The contract with Keolis will do away with this list of acceptable excuses for lateness and require the operator to provide supporting documentation if it believes an event is beyond its control, Scott said.
For the first time, 50 percent of the amount of financial disincentives will be tied to elements of customer satisfaction, such as cleanliness, heating and air conditioning, maintenance of staff levels and customer communications, she said.
The contract also will require Keolis to adhere to a strict maintenance schedule, increase daily inspection requirements and allow the MBTA to require the company to implement a remedial action plan if its performance fails to meet expectations, Scott said.
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