BOSTON (CBS) — The unprecedented snow knocked down the state’s transit system and it is going to take time to resume service, Gerald Francis, general manager of Keolis, told the Legislature’s Committee on Transportation Tuesday.
It’s a now-familiar reprise of the company’s explanation for this winter’s commuter rail meltdown.READ MORE: Boston Firefighters Save 90-Year-Old Woman From Brighton Apartment Building Fire
His pledge going forward: “Communication, communication, communication.”
But it appears it’s not only angry customers and skeptical legislators Francis needs to communicate with more effectively.
Today, Thomas Murray, president of the union representing commuter rail workers, laid the blame for the rail and mechanical problems that shredded schedules and stranded passengers during this brutal winter squarely on managers at Keolis and the MBTA, which contracts out operation and maintenance of the commuter rail system to Keolis.
“Nobody knew what the hell was going on,” Murray testified.
Noting the system’s failure to build maintenance facilities to keep up with its rapid service expansion over the past two decades, he claimed, “we didn’t have the facilities to basically thaw out our equipment.”
Keolis officials counted on moderating temperatures to help bail them out, but, “the thaw that they hoped for never came,” he said.READ MORE: December Weather Preview: Could Boston Have A White Christmas?
“We’ve had winters before, in 1994-95 we had 106 inches, we’ve had a lot of snow and we did have the legs” to restore service, said Murray.
“But you’ve gotta have visible and effective leadership and you’ve got to have a leadership that pretty much makes a decision and sticks with it. What we saw was a paralysis at the upper management level where everybody was afraid to make a move. Dammit, make a move,” he said
The Keolis brass sat in the hearing room during Murray’s testimony, but as reporters flocked into the hallway to follow-up with the union chief, they fled through another door, leaving behind Keolis spokesman Mac Daniel, who claimed Murray’s charges were untrue.
Meanwhile, officials of the Carmen’s Union — which represents MBTA workers — also detailed management failures for the legislators, claiming the T provided only 25 snowblowers for use in clearing the entire T system.
So, what happens next?
A special commission appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to review the mess and make reform recommendation is due to report back any day now. And with a range of voices urging the governor to at least temporarily sideline the MassDOT board and take personal control of the troubled system, it was telling when one of the committee’s co-chairman, Rep. William Straus (D- Mattapoisett), told reporters after the hearing that he believes that seizure has already taken place.MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
“We asked board members to come in, [but] they declined,” he said. “The board is functioning as an adjunct of the governor’s office.”