March 6, 2014

MBCR asks judge to halt MBTA rail contract

The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. (MBCR), operator of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA) commuter rail system for the past decade, asked a Suffolk County Superior Court judge to halt the award of a $4.2 billion commuter rail contract to a new entity controlled by Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF) and invalidate the new contract.

In its court filing, MBCR cited irreparable harm created by the MBTA’s decision to move forward with transition to a new operator while refusing to review MBCR’s formal protest in a timely manner.

MBCR’s request for an injunction follows discovery of multiple, serious deficiencies and errors found in commuter rail procurement documents made public by the MBTA following public records requests, according to the operator.

The mistakes include a $428 million understatement of actual commuter rail costs in the MBTA’s Independent Cost Estimate (ICE), which omitted costs such as guaranteed annual wage benefits worth nearly $5,000 per employee and $10 million in existing costs for parts and materials required to maintain trains. When compared with an accurate ICE, the fixed-cost bid price falls more than $500 million below the realistic price of operating the system.

Additionally, SNCF/Keolis failed to provide a detailed security plan as required by the Request for Proposals and instead offered a promise to prepare one sometime in the future.

MBCR also alleges that records provided by the MBTA also show its deputy general counsel responsible for the integrity of the procurement assisted SNCF/Keolis in an apparent attempt to conceal documentation of significant non-compliance in the SNCF/Keolis proposal. A series of emails between the MBTA and SNCF/Keolis officials — exchanged after a legally binding deadline had passed — show the attorney advised SNCF/Keolis to withdraw an inquiry from the official record that would have required public disclosure of non-compliance.

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