Even before the MBTA inked its then roughly $566 million deal with low bidder CRRC MA in 2014 to produce new Orange and Red Line trains, concerns were already being raised.
Critics pointed to the Chinese-state-owned company significantly underbidding its competitors and its ties to the Communist Party, with some even asserting there was the potential for spyware installation in trains.
Still, the contract was extended in 2017, before the first new rail car shells arrived for assembly at CRRC’s $95 million factory in Springfield.
Flash forward to today, and the new cars have been taken out of service multiple times for various mechanical defects and final delivery deadlines have been pushed beyond 2026, already three years later than the contractually required dates. Here is how that all played out:
Under Gov. Deval Patrick, Chinese state-owned company CRRC MA, then known as CNC MA, was awarded a $565.18 million contract to design and manufacture 152 Orange and 132 Red Line subway cars for the MBTA, coming in roughly $155.5 million lower than the bid above it.
CRRC breaks ground on a new $95 million railcar manufacturing facility in Springfield.
CRRC Springfield manufacturing facility construction is completed.
Under Gov. Charlie Baker, the MBTA expands the contract, ordering an additional 120 Red Line cars for $249 million, bringing the total order to 404 rail cars. The contract now stands at $870.5 million, when factoring in a $56.3 million change order.
First rail car shells arrive at the CRRC Springfield facility for assembly.
First pair of new Orange Line cars are finished at the Springfield factory.
Under President Donald Trump, the United States Trade Representative increased existing tariffs on Chinese goods to 25%, which impacts large portions of the cars that CRRC sources in China. The company has asked for relief from the MBTA on these tariffs, which it says stand at $18 million and are expected to grow to $35 million by the end of the contract.
MBTA introduces the first new Orange Line train into service, with six CRRC-built cars.
MBTA pulls new Orange Line trains due to what it described as an uncommon noise issue.
Under Trump, Congress passes the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which bans mass transit agencies from using federal funds for the purchase of rail cars and buses from Chinese-owned companies. CRRC is grandfathered in and permitted to continue doing business with its current U.S. contracts — MBTA in Boston, SEPTA in Philadelphia and LA Metro — and compete for new rail car contracts for a two-year grace period, with the exception of Washington, D.C. This House amendment included in the final bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat who represents Springfield.
New Orange Line trains are taken out of service after MBTA inspectors find fault with the vehicle bolsters.
New Orange and Red Line trains are taken out of service after a new two-car train set is involved in a derailment.
The CRRC plant in Springfield takes on additional work: assembly for a $647 million contract with LA Metro.
CRRC was contractually required to deliver all 152 Orange Line cars by the end of this month. To date, 78 Orange Line cars have been delivered.
MBTA pulls new Orange and Red Line trains from service after a breakdown at Wellington station. The T later says a train became disabled because a bolt was improperly installed in a car’s braking unit.
MBTA pulls new Orange and Red Line trains after a battery failure in an out-of-service Orange Line car. T later says the failure was a battery explosion.
All Orange and Red Line car shipments are suspended to address manufacturing-related defects identified by the MBTA.
MBTA starts to scrap old Orange Line trains to make room for the new fleet.
CRRC halts Red Line car shell production due to a surplus of car shells currently stored in Springfield. Fourteen of 44 produced Red Line shells are in storage at the facility. All 152 Orange Line shells have been produced, with 26 housed in Springfield.
MBTA cuts service on the Orange Line and pulls new trains, after mechanical failures were found in nine CRRC cars. The T later says that faulty design and ill-fitting materials are to blame. This same month, the MBTA sends a scathing letter to CRRC, describing the Chinese company’s failure to produce quality trains and meet delivery deadlines.
MBTA Interim General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville tells the T’s board of directors CRRC won’t be able to meet the extended deadlines it requested in the fall, of December 2023 and September 2026 for Orange and Red Line cars.
Gov. Maura Healey says she directed the MBTA to form an independent team of experts to stamp out problems hindering the procurement of the new cars. Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca visits the Springfield factory, part of what Healey describes as her administration’s intent to have a continued physical presence there. This will mainly be through the newly assembled consulting group.
Rail car shipments resume, with the MBTA expecting to take delivery of four cars per month, half of the contractually-required eight cars per month.
CRRC was contractually required to deliver all 252 Red Line cars by the end of this month. To date, 12 Red Line cars have been delivered.
CRRC’s extended deadline for Orange Line car delivery that the MBTA GM says the company will no longer be able to meet.
CRRC’s extended deadline for Red Line car delivery that the MBTA GM says the company will no longer be able to meet.
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