Hoping For 'No Drama,' MBTA GM Introduces New Rail Operator

Riders on the MBTA commuter rail system were greeted Tuesday by train conductors and staff wearing new uniforms bearing the logo of Keolis, one of only a few obvious changes MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott hopes riders will notice under the rail system’s new operator.

Scott told reporters Tuesday at South Station in Boston she wants a smooth transition that won’t disrupt riders’ commutes.

“People want to be able to have their commute, they want it to go as seamlessly as possible. They want it to be a comfortable and a pleasant experience. No drama from us,” Scott said.

Keolis Commuter Services beat out former operator Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company in January for the $2.69 billion eight-year contract, the largest operating contract in the state’s history.

MBCR protested the Patrick administration's procurement process for awarding the contract, which was conducted by Scott.

Scott said the contract with Keolis is very different from the previous agreement with MBCR and will focus on rider experience instead of just quantitative performance metrics.

Keolis General Manager Thomas Mulligan, appearing at the press conference with several representatives from the French rail company, said the company is aware that the commuter rail’s engines and coaches, some decades old, need more care and maintenance than new equipment.

“The biggest challenge is the equipment itself. It is an aging fleet,” Mulligan said.

The switch in operators fell on the same day that 5 percent fare increases affected the entire MBTA.

Scott said riders have been understanding of the increase.

“Nobody likes to have a fare increase, but they’ve been very appreciative of the fact that this was very predictable,” Scott said. The GM, who took over management of the MBTA in 2013, said the transition has been gone well. “The best day for us is a day that’s quiet, and the customers are happy,” Scott said.