By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – The brass at the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR), the private company hired by the state to run local commuter rail, are apologizing as hard as they can for Monday’s fiasco on the Boston to Worcester line, where passengers were stuck for hours on a disabled train amid overall chaos.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

They can be heard repeating the contrite buzzword we’ve been hearing from them and MBTA officials all winter long about their wretched performance, that it is “unacceptable,” and I can’t argue with that.

But MBCR’s explanation for what happened Monday is also unacceptable.

They admit that the very same engine that broke down and doubled an 80 minute commute had caused delays earlier Monday on that very same route, but in an initial statement yesterday claimed that the engine has been fixed before it was sent out again to torture customers.

Their flack gave out the usual poormouth line, that the problems “reflect the age of the fleet.” But later they admitted that they should never have put that engine back into service, so apparently, the breakdown reflected the incompetence of MBCR staff and management as well.

Public comments on the Globe web site have been scathing.

Wrote one: “These former MBTA managers undertook the contract understanding the age of the fleet…they knew they needed to invest more in maintenance. Now they realize they need to invest more in operations and less in the profits.”

And another wrote: “Does anyone ever have a truly pleasant commute on any form of Boston public transportation?” (OK, the commuter boat isn’t bad.)

Every time I talk with someone in the state transportation hierarchy about MBCR, they either roll their eyes or shake their heads or both.

There’s a problem there, and given the loss of time, income, and even jobs their chronic ineptitude has caused, perhaps its time for some heads to roll.

Or better yet, make the brass ride the Worcester line for the rest of the year. Talk about a fate worse than firing.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

Comments (28)
  1. edwal says:

    well the equipment is very old the mbta hasnt invested in new equipment in about 20 yrs what the heck do they expect

  2. As Brian Kane of the MBTA Advisory Board notes (–mbcr-fined-500k-for-making-you-late): Commuter Rail riders should start calling their state reps and senators instead of complaining on Twitter. We have a problem only the Legislature can solve.

    While there is indeed an issue of maintenance prioritisation, this equipment IS old and it IS bound to fail, but the fact that they’d need to reduce service in order to improve service consistency by not running fail-prone equipment is a huge issue. Our transit agencies are being forced to make tough decisions about spending prioritisations because of decades if government disinvestment and failed financing plans instituted by the Legislature years ago.

    Do your job as investigative journalists and stop simply parroting the concerns of riders.

    1. Jeff Kingston says:

      Another politically correct run around the bushes. The State needs to own up to the fact that the debt issue was pushed onto the MBCR, and the no-bid process for the last contract was very possibly illegal. Those running MBCR are old political hacks from the T, Mr. O’Leary and friends. Stop the bleeding and the BS. They all need to GO, and as soon as possible. Do you ride the commuter rail? I do, and old yes, but the condition of the locomotives is unacceptable, and the filth in the cars is like being in Bangaldesh, except their cars are most likely cleaner.

  3. Gene says:

    it’s not just the commuter rail the entire MBTA needs to be scrutinized by an independent agency. It just keeps getting worse everyday and they don’t seem to be able to do anything about it

  4. John Adelman says:

    “Invest in maintenance”: one invests in CAPITAL and EXPENDS maintenance. Maintenance alone has no residual value, it is required for the equipment to retain value rather than experience rapid depreciation.

    These folks who awarded the contract are the ones whose heads should roll; and maybe the contractor too!

    1. Jeff Kingston says:

      Business school formula garbage. The public is being charged for an undelivered service, and have the right to complain heartily, and everyone involved in this fiasco needs to GO!

  5. Jeff Kingston says:

    Why is a problem on the Worcester line the cause for this sort of uproar? Do their Politicians have more pull than others. The Haverhill, Lowell, Newburyport, and Rockport lines have been plagued with these same issues for more than 5 years.
    Constantly late, cancelled, interrupted with signal, crossing issues, and late trains coming in the other direction causing long waits in the middle of nowhere. Bad rails, bad bridges over seemingly small streams that cause speed restrictions for years!!!!!!!!!!!! Why does it take an hour and twenty minutes to go thirty miles?
    You can drive to Portland Maine in that length of time. Poor scheduling, bad management overall, Cleaning contracts with companies that have no idea about clean, rude, surly employees, and customer service that NEVER satisfactorily answers a complaint.. only boiler plate pablum. I have been complaining about this to all the news outlets in Boston, regularly, for about 3 years and this one bad experience on the Worcester line (out of South Station) gets headlines and public apologies from management.
    Get rid of all of them.

  6. Steve says:

    Dont like it?? Dont ride it….I stopped riding the T 6 years ago, Cheaper to drive to Boston in the comforts of my own car, no beligerent drunks next to me from concerts,sports games etc. No trash from McDonalds & Dunkin Donuts either and my car smells nicer too.

  7. SOS says:

    OK. We’ve been hearing forever about the aging fleet and bottomless debt that decades of mismanagement and neglect have thrust upon the Massachusetts transit system.

    What you don’t hear about is all the six figure kickbacks, cronyism and insider deals that goes on at all levels of MBTA management. Or the “secret strike of 2007” when MBTA’s Carman’s Union secretly (and intentionally) delayed service on several MBTA Commuter Rail and Subway lines over a contract dispute.

    Sadly, the only way out at this point may be to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, dissolve the MBTA (and MBCR) entirely, fire everyone, and start from scratch under new management (without all the bloated insider contracts, kickbacks, and clear repercussions for severely delayed service). Or pray for a bailout.

  8. FireGuyFrank says:

    It’s Massachusetts. What do you expect?

    It is a one-party state with deeply entrenched politicians and political payoff jobs everywhere. Even if MBCR was dissolved, there would still be patronage in the new organization.

    Bay State voters need to stand up! How many years ago did voters tell the Legislature to cut the income tax rate only to have the politicians ignore us? Do you think anyone on Beacon Hill has a clue?

  9. Cynic says:

    Why do they need to apoligize? Because people can’t accept that we live in an imperfect world?
    Supposing the leaders were to take your suggestions and insist that those involved in Commuter Rail put forth more effort.
    Would WBZ then take off on a tirade about how the workers are being BULLIED by their BOSSES?

  10. BostonIrish says:

    Sounds like there’s GOTTA be a union involved here somewhere! Sheesh!

  11. danny says:

    to all the people who keep complaining about the t. no one is forcing you to ride it. if you cant take it then get yourself your own vehicle and drive to your destination. some people have an excuse or are just to lazy to drive. I say all those people who complain ban them for a month or so from riding the t and see how different they will act when they are finally allowed back on

    1. Jeff Kingston says:

      You must be a T employee, or one of those receiving kickbacks, or you have a family member with one of the “paybac” jobs.

    2. danny is a moron says:

      you sound like a complete idiot… what you are saying is, if they don’t like it tough? all right, well buddy, take this into consideration- if fewer people ride the t, the already bankrupt mbta goes into MORE debt, which means less work, which means worse conditions, which means less people take the t…. its a downward spiral….

  12. roadbowler says:

    I thought this type of violent rhetoric was supposed to be done away with. ‘Heads need to roll’???

  13. CoachJim says:

    So everyone wants us to use public transportation. The theory being that it is better for the environemnt, better for the city to have less cars, better for all involved. Yet, after being in San Fran, Chicago, and Atlanta; Boston has some of the worste trains in appearance. Some of the worst records for being on time, and makes absolutely no effort to promote or improve the ride.

    If you rent a condominium, then the management should able to show a reserve budget. One where the anticipated life span of a piece of equipment has been estimated, along with the estimated cost to replace that piece of equipment. Normally it includes a number for inflation and other variables. It is how the condominium fees are determined so that enough money is set aside in reserve to pay for these expenses. Anyone every seen such a thing from the T. Why have they not set aside monies over the years anticipating that engines and cars would need to be replaced after a set period of years. This is not just the fault of the current management, its the fault of the whole damn system for the past fifty years. Fire all the T management and bring in a private company to manage the T. Business men will understand how to make the ride better, keep their equipment running, and market public transportation better.

    1. CoachJim says:

      And Minnesota has the right idea. Don’t allow the unions to run it.

    2. Frank says:

      Would these be the same “business men” that created the real estate bubble and caused a worldwide economic crisis? Better we model ourselves after the union hating government of Texas, they know how to do things right…oh wait, turns out Texas is facing a 25 billion dollar deficit.

  14. The Owl says:

    As I recall this current arrangement was brought on because the MBTA was unable to to manage the system themselves.

    Time for the hack train to be derailed and bring in competent management AND labor to deal with the underling decay.

  15. mikey says:

    All things considered, this country is on the fast track toward third world status.

    No money.

  16. emom says:

    Heads to roll ahhhhhh CROQUET ANYONE.. clunk

  17. taxedout says:

    Former T managers running it, and you wonder why it’s a Dog???? People out of work and we give Another high paying job to someone who already had one and is more than likely get a pension on that one!!!! Enjoy your wait, if you think the Dream team on the Hill you re-elected is going to help you!!! Anyway the Gov is out of town campaining for his buddy, he ‘ll get to your problems when he gets back!!!! Right!!!

  18. taxedout says:

    They just hired one of the Big dig outfits to help out, so don’t worry Help is on it’s way!!!!! Enjoy your wait!!!

  19. emom says:

    Have your hard hats ready folks, the sky will be falling soon.

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