Railroad says it’s working to reverse drop in on-time performance
On-time performance for MBTA commuter trains remains down for a fourth consecutive month, but the contractor operating the lines says it’s working to reverse the trend.
Thirty percent of Boston’s suburban commuter rail lines have run more than five minutes late since September, according to figures from the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., the private company that runs the service for the MBTA.
Systemwide, 68.2 percent of trains arrived within five minutes of scheduled times in October, down from 90.9 percent in October of last year, according to MBCR figures. On-time performance was 69.2 percent in November.
T officials say the contractor is expected to hit the on-time mark – five minutes or less within scheduled arrival times – 95 percent of the time.
Wet leaves on tracks result in slowed-down trains this time of year, T General Manager Daniel Grabauskas said in an interview.
But that doesn’t explain documented delays going back to summer, he acknowledged.
“I understand there have been a number of different factors leading to the pretty rapid and steep decline in on-time performance across the system,” he said. “The specifics I am not privy to.”
Grabauskas defers questions to the MBCR, which says it is working hard to identify causes of the delays and to improve relations with unionized conductors and employees.
A recent history of tense relation between management sparked reports of a work slowdown, but union representatives insist there’s no organized effort to slow down trains.
Workers are, however, constricted by new safety regulations put into effect following a fatal train accident in Woburn earlier this year, say union leaders representing 400 conductors and 200 engineer.
“We know what’s expected of us, and if we’re not working to the rule, we’re subject to discipline and dismissal,” said George Casey of the United Transportation Union, which represents conductors. “If a train becomes late, we can’t run faster than the rules require us or provide for us to do.”
George Newman of Hingham, a representative of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said equipment failures and unrealistic schedules are among other reasons for train delays.
“Not once did I have a manager come up with any serious charges about an engineer deliberately slowing down or engaging in any activity that was contrary to the rules as far as moving a train,” Newman said.
Farmelant said the T’s roughly 70,000 round-trip riders should remain patient, saying on-time performance will improve.
“We’re doing everything humanly possible to get this service back to the level that it should be at,” he said.
Tom Benner may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
On-time performance for MBTA commuter trainsNov. 2007: 69.2 percent Oct. 2007: 68.2 percent Sept. 2007: 71.8 percent August 2007: 79.9 percent Oct. 2006: 90.9 percent
Source: Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co.