Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Keolis Lost Money

This may be surprising coming from me, but I feel sorry for them. They low bid for a decrepit and neglected system after being extorted by black clergy that leaked stories about their ties to the Nazis, took over from an entrenched interest with deep campaign ties to Beacon Hill, found out the new equipment that had been ordered was already broken-down crap, got socked with the worst winter ever, and was still fined by the city for failure to deliver service. 

Welcome to Boston.

"Keolis lost $9.9m on commuter rail in 2014, audit says; Commuter rail operator looking to reduce costs" by Nicole Dungca Globe Staff  June 16, 2015

An independent audit shows that the MBTA’s commuter rail operator is losing money and has been borrowing from its international parent company to make ends meet — revealing a company that must cut costs even as it tries to repair an aging fleet and make its trains run on time. 

Look, a contentious corporation!

An audit obtained by the Globe shows that Keolis Commuter Services ended 2014 with a net loss of $9.97 million after taking over the T’s commuter rail service in July. The company expects to lose more money in 2015, according to the audit completed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm.

Leslie Aun, a spokeswoman for the company, revealed few specifics about how the company is cutting back, saying such information was private and competitive.

She also said such losses are typical in the first few years of such a large contract.

“You don’t walk into a situation like this and start making money off the bat,” she said. “These are big contracts. You have to make a lot of changes.”

Keolis Commuter Services, the Boston outpost of the French transit group Keolis, took over in July, after it was chosen for a $2.68 billion, eight-year contract over the former operators, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company.

Pressed for specifics on how the company is reducing expenses, Aun provided a list of ways that Keolis is trying to improve upon practices under Massachusetts Bay they consider outdated and inefficient.

In one example, she said Massachusetts Bay used to schedule employees using an Excel spreadsheet that was time-intensive and inefficient. Since taking over, Keolis has implemented a “modern system” to streamline the process and save money, she said.

“We’re looking at literally every aspect of the commuter rail operations for ways to operate more efficiently and to reduce unnecessary costs — from how we schedule employees to how we order supplies,” she wrote in an e-mail.

But Joseph A. English, who heads the local chapter of the Association of Railroad and Airline Supervisors union, said he worries that such fine-tuning avoids the real problem: That Keolis bid too little for the contract and doesn’t have enough resources to properly operate the rail system. “You just don’t have enough people,” he said.

Aun said the company is still hiring for positions left open by Massachusetts Bay and there are a number of one-time expenses that will not exist next year.

“Most expenses were investments in operational improvements such as a new safety program and the opening of the first dedicated customer service call center,” Aun wrote in an e-mail.


Aun said some of the losses stem from the fines the company has had to pay the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for trains that are late, dirty, or subpar in other ways. Since October, Keolis has paid the maximum amount for late trains every month. The company has also been fined for other shortcomings every month. 

They can't cut 'em a break and help 'em out a little?

The company had to pay $2.6 million in total fines for the year of 2014, according to the audit. 

They like grabbing money in Ma$$achu$etts.

Extreme weather, old trains and tracks, and leadership troubles have all contributed to Keolis’s problems in late 2014 and this year. A series of relentless snowstorms slammed the company in late January and February. Even after the snow melted, the T released figures saying about 14 percent of Keolis trains ran late in May. [The MBTA has since said some of those trains were late because of factors outside of Keolis’s control.] Keolis has also warned that delays will persist because of the hot weather.

Aun said the company has been challenged by many “unpleasant surprises” after taking over the contract. Though she did not mention the previous operator by name, she alluded to “poor maintenance of the locomotive fleet” and a “lack of modern business processes” of Keolis’s predecessor.

“We’re here for the long term and are making changes that we know from experience will lead to a better service,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Michael Verseckes, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the MBTA is reviewing the finances of Keolis Commuter Services to make sure the company lives up to its contract.

“The MBTA does not believe that the losses at KCS will adversely affect customer service,” he said.

Keolis S.A., the French parent company of Keolis Commuter Services, has a lot on the line with the operation of Boston’s commuter rail system, one of the largest in the country.

The T’s commuter rail represents one of the company’s first major forays into the American rail market. Keolis S.A., which is owned in part by the French National Railroad Company, is also the parent company of a separate subsidiary that runs a commuter railroad in Virginia. But the MBTA’s commuter rail — which provides more than 129,000 rides every weekday — overshadows that operation.

The audit shows that both the international company and the French national railroad have subsidized the Boston operation.

Keolis Commuter Services repaid $20 million in principal to its parent company and $8.8 million in principal to the French National Railroad Company, according to the audit. Keolis Commuter Services also paid the entities for consulting and interest on the loans.

Asked about the funding from the parent company, Aun said Keolis Commuter Services fully expects to be profitable.

“They provided the initial funding to make the investments as a strategic business decision because they believe this is an important piece of business,” Aun said.

It is to the people of Boston and the surrounding areas.


Look who they have to work with.... 

As for fixing it, I don't know. I may just get off the T for good.

"It was the story of our endless winter: Can we finally fix the MBTA?"

Whose we?

Neglecting the MBTA by committee
Free MBTA from Pacheco Law
MBTA’s path forward

Of course, the Big Dig and all it's debt have nothing to do with anything. That's already lost, and I'm no longer fighting the free ride:

"The MBTA is planning a “free fare day” next month to mollify riders disgruntled by this winter’s poor service, but commuter rail customers are complaining that some of their fellow passengers are already getting free rides. The packed commuter trains have had another unfortunate side effect besides discomfort: Because conductors haven’t been able to move through the crush of people on some cars, they haven’t always collected fares. “The person next to me shouldn’t ride for free when I’ve spent $280 on my pass,” said Gary Robinson, a regular Franklin Line commuter."

Gripe, gripe, gripe. 

At least they are making the trains run on time -- or not:

Commuter rail now at 80%, Keolis chief says

They had new problems Monday night, and somehow they are still having money problems despite a record high ridership. I'm sure technology will keep them on track (a couple of other guys have some ideas, too).

"MBTA rage can’t melt" by Yvonne Abraham, Globe Columnist  March 15, 2015

Snow just did.

Save some anger for the legislators who, over the years, have been allergic to adequately funding transportation. They’ve also done a lousy job of understanding our transportation issues and explaining them to constituents.

And let’s let various governors have it, for kicking the funding can down the road and generally ignoring the size of the problems even as they signed off on expansions. Like so many before him, newbie Charlie Baker decided the transportation system’s problems were ones of management and not money — as if his predecessors hadn’t been using that line of reasoning, to no avail, for ages. He’s also the guy who shut the door on raising new revenues and threw former GM Beverly Scott under barely functioning buses. Thanks, Gov!

Finally, let’s be mad at ourselves. We have failed to demand that our leaders build transit worthy of this century, not to mention the next. We’re also the ones who unlinked the gas tax from inflation, depriving a broken system of a billion dollars over the next 10 years....

"They" need $7 billion right now!


I'm resisting the urge to resign, readers. Maybe I'll make some stops here tomorrow. Time to park this for today.

UPDATE: Red Line upgrades begin this month to prepare for winter

Also seeState splits leadership at the MBTA in two parts

Scott got Shortsleeved after all.

"$14 million cut would not hurt T, Baker says; Transportation budget would lose $26 million in mid-year cuts" by Joshua Miller, Globe Staff  February 05, 2015

Stephanie Pollack, the state transportation secretary, said the planned cuts, which involve some job vacancies not being filled along with other measures, were careful, strategic, and not as deep as they appear because some diminished state funds would be replaced by other sources of money....

From where?

“They’re positions throughout the organization,” she said. “We sort of went through and found positions that were vacant that we feel comfortable not filling for the remainder of” the fiscal year.

Not needed at all then!


RelatedCharlie Baker on the MBTA

"James J. Kerasiotes, the former head of the Big Dig construction project, was sentenced to six months in federal prison on Thursday for filing false tax returns. He pleaded guilty in September to underreporting his income by more than $100,000 over 2010 and 2011. He must also serve a year of supervised release, with the first four months in home confinement, and he must pay $31,448 in restitution and a $5,000 fine. Kerasiotes was the controversial former chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority who was forced to resign in 2000 because of more than $1.4 billion worth of hidden cost overruns on the massive highway project."

Did you know an agency rife with creaky equipment had failed to spend $2.2 billion in available capital funds to upgrade its aging infrastructure

Talk about a rape!


MBTA should focus on maintenance, report says

Transit secretary slams critics of MBTA overhaul

Deal to privatize MBTA station debuts with shortfalls

"MBTA to redo commuter rail schedules" by Nicole Dungca Globe Staff  August 17, 2015

Seeking to meet its new goal of operating at least 92 percent of its trains on time, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s commuter rail operator will change its schedules this fall under a new agreement.

The company will reschedule its trains and release new timetables in an attempt to provide better service to customers, according to Mac Daniel, a spokesman for Keolis Commuter Services.

“I think we’re creating these new schedules with the passengers first and foremost in our minds,” he said.

And by lengthening the time frames they will avoid late service fines.

Allowing Keolis to alter its schedules could significantly help the company’s on-time rate: The new schedules could better reflect the current performance of the trains, which should help provide more accurate timetables for customers.

Keolis wants to unveil new commuter rail schedules by Nov. 1, according to Daniel. He said all lines probably would get new schedules, but he did not yet know how drastic the changes will be.

“It’s still a work in progress, and a lot of it has to be approved by the T,” Daniel said....

What about the children?


Still waiting for a train.

No layoffs in privatizing of bus lines, T officials say