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The new company running the MBTA's commuter rail service has been fined $434,000 by the transit agency for failing to meet on-time targets.
In the four months since Keolis Commuter Services has been running the system for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, it has failed to meet the goal of being on time 95 percent of the time, according to documents cited by the Boston Herald. October tied the lowest on-time rate since 2011.
"On time" is defined as being within five minutes of the scheduled arrival time.
Keolis took control of the commuter rail service July 1 under an eight-year, $2.7 billion contract.
Keolis is subject to penalties capped at about $12 million per year for subpar performance, including late or dirty trains or operating trains without proper heating or air conditioning.
Several factors contributed to the low on-time percentages, Keolis spokesman Mac Daniel said. He cited "slippery rail" -- when leaves fall on rail lines and force drivers to slow down -- as well as ongoing upgrades to the Fitchburg line, outdated train cars and large crowds on Halloween bound for Salem.
T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said "it's far too early to draw any conclusions" about Keolis' performance four months into an eight-year contract. He also noted that the prior operator of the commuter rail had trouble reaching on-time goals in when it first took over.
Some commuters have noticed. "It's so frustrating," said Maika Luongo, a dietician from Billerica who takes the train from Lowell to North Station every day. "It just seems like they can never get their trains to work. There's always an issue."
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