Keolis Commuter Services will continue to operate the commuter rail system in Massachusetts until at least 2025 or 2026 under a renegotiated contract extension that will pay the French company more than $2.5 billion in operating costs over the next six years while the MBTA prepares for a long-term overhaul of its train network.
The extension will keep Keolis running trains for four years beyond the original contract's 2022 end date, though the MBTA has an option to end the agreement in 2025 — after three additional years — if officials feel ready to launch a search for what they described as a "transformational" successor.
Under the more than $2.7 billion, eight-year base contract, the T had two additional two-year extensions available. The agreement approved Monday replaces those extensions with a new framework that will pay Keolis roughly $220 million more than the original agreement, according to a presentation delivered at Monday's Fiscal and Management Control Board meeting.
The board voted 4-0 in favor of the new agreement. Chair Joseph Aiello abstained due to a potential conflict of interest.
MBTA and Keolis staff have been exchanging proposals since April, and the version they settled on includes new features not found in the original extensions. The commuter rail operator can earn up to $5 million per year through incentives to run trains above on-time targets or to boost staffing, and the T will also absorb some costs of mechanical parts.
Keolis had drawn frequent criticism earlier on in the contract for its performance, particularly after the disastrous winter of 2015. MBTA officials said Monday that the company has improved in recent years.
"I think that this is fantastic," said Monica Tibbits-Nutt, vice chair of the FMCB. "I'm very excited about continuing with Keolis. I think the partnership has just continued to get better, and I think as we're looking at the Rail Vision (long-term plan) and what the state's goals are as we move forward with commuter rail transformation, this is the best way for us to move forward, especially during this incredibly uncertain time."