Mysterious malady plagues commuter rail wheels
Keolis hasn’t met its coach target since mid-March
JUST AS THE MBTA’S COMMUTER RAIL operator is starting to get a handle on its shortage of working locomotives, the company is facing a mysterious problem with the wheels on its passenger coaches.
Since March 9, Keolis Commuter Services has been unable to meet daily requirements for passenger coach availability, racking up fines in the process. Keolis officials say the wheels on the coaches are the primary culprit; the wheels have been plagued with nicks and hairline fractures that are not dangerous but have to repaired before they worsen and become a safety problem.
Keolis was required to have 362 coaches available for daily service through March 31, and then 366 coaches after that. The commuter rail operator hasn’t met the target since March 9, with coach availability falling to a low of 331 on March 20 before recovering to about 350 more recently. By contrast, Keolis met the passenger coach target every day but one between Jan. 1 and March 9.
David Scorey, the general manager of Keolis, told the Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday that the nicks and hairline fractures on the wheels are not unusual, but he’s seen nothing like what’s happened since mid-March. He estimates 70 coaches were identified with the problem over a two-to-three week period. “We’re trying to figure out why so many in such a short time,” he said.
As temperatures begin to rise, T officials said one other problem has surfaced. The air conditioning units on 45 recently overhauled coaches require modifications. The officials said the repairs are under warranty.