Locomotives made by Boise’s MotivePower keep breaking down in Boston, disrupting commuter service there, according to a contractor that operates the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s commuter train system.
The problems have contributed to canceled routes and worsening on-time performance, according to the Boston Globe.
The transit authority paid MotivePower $222 million for 40 locomotives. General Electric partnered with MotivePower to deliver the engines. On April 6, 13 of those were pulled from routes for repairs, fixing defects or preventative maintenance, the Globe reported.
The transit authority bought the trains before hiring Keolis, a Boston subsidiary of a French company, in 2014 to run the the commuter rail system. The authority has fined Keolis more than $200,000 since July for not having enough trains available.
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Keolis told the Globe that “a higher than expected failure rate” with turbochargers forced service cancellations.
“Poor locomotive performance recently has led to a downturn in availability,” said David Scoley, general manager of Keolis Commuter Services, the Globe reported. “This downturn is the result of older equipment failing and issues with newer locomotives, both of which have reduced the daily service capacity.”
A 2010 contract MotivePower signed with MBTA for 20 next-generation locomotives was one of the biggest the Boise company had ever received, General Manager Mark Warner said then.
MotivePower in 2008 enlisted the help of Idaho’s congressional delegation and Boise Mayor Dave Bieter to stop the federal government from waiving protectionist “Buy America” trade rules for the MBTA. Those rules kept a Spanish rival from bidding on an MBTA contract, most of which was to be paid with federal money.
MotivePower’s plant off Federal Way in Southeast Boise is a legacy of the defunct Morrison Knudsen Co., once one of the world’s biggest construction companies. MK entered the rail-car making business in 1989. MotivePower is now owned by Wabtec, a Pennsylvania company.
MotivePower, Keolis and the MBTA did not return requests from the Statesman seeking people to comment.
Zach Kyle: 208-377-6464, @ZachKyleNews. Business Editor David Staats contributed.