Locomotive defects get T’s attention

Gonneville to work with Keolis on addressing problem

THE MBTA’S CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER announced on Monday that he is going to be working with Keolis officials to address defects in 40 relatively new commuter rail locomotives that are putting the vehicles out of commission and disrupting service.

Jeffrey Gonneville, the T’s chief operating officer, said only 27 of the new locomotives were in service as of Friday. The remaining 13 were undergoing some sort of maintenance and T and Keolis officials said the turbochargers on all 40 of the locomotives will eventually have to be replaced.

T officials said General Electric designed the propulsion systems on the new locomotives and has acknowledged design defects that will require replacement of all of them.

Under a deal reached last year, Keolis is required to have 67 locomotives available each day or face financial penalties. David Scorey, the general manager of Keolis, said problems with the new locomotives have made compliance with that requirement difficult over the last couple weeks. He said the system has had as few as 62 locomotives available for daily service, as many as 69, and an average of 65 in March.  In February, he said, Keolis averaged 67 locomotives available on a daily basis.

Scorey said there are 97 locomotives in the commuter rail fleet, with 16 inoperable. That leaves 81 available for daily service, but Scorey said 16 of those typically are undergoing some sort of maintenance, leaving Keolis with 67 available for daily service. The problem of late has been that many of the 40 newer locomotives, which went into service in 2014 and 2015, are requiring emergency repairs.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Keolis was awarded a $66 million contract enhancement last year in part to overhaul some of the older, inoperable locomotives and get them back into service. The first locomotive under that program is due to go into service in May, four weeks ahead of schedule, Scorey said. He said it typically takes eight weeks to complete the overhaul of one of the older locomotives.

Steve Poftak, a member of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, said the rapid emergence of the problem over the last two weeks caught him off guard and he asked for more regular updates in the future.