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Chinese Rail Car Maker Taps Resources For Possible Springfield Factory

CNR Changchun

Top executives from a Chinese rail car company were back in Springfield, Massachusetts today continuing to lay the groundwork for a factory to build subway cars for the MBTA.  Officials at a local college offered its school of engineering as a resource for the company.

 A decision on building the $30 million factory in Springfield will be made by the end of the year, as Chanchung Railway Vehicles awaits word on the awarding of a contract potentially worth up to $1.5 billion to supply hundreds of new subway cars for the MBTA.  Bids for the project are due by May 15th.

" The schedule for the decision will be in conjunction with our project procedure."

Yu Weiping, Chanchung’s vice president for overseas business, spoke with reporters through an interpreter during a visit to the school of engineering at Western New England University.

   Chanchung, the world’s largest maker of passenger rail cars, has an option to purchase a 40-acre site that was a former Westinghouse manufacturing center and is proposing a 125,000 square-foot assembly plant.  It could employ up to 300 people.

The company was prompted to locate the future hub for its  North American operations in Massachusetts  because the MBTA is requiring the final assembly of the new subway cars be done in Massachusetts.

Chanchung executives have been investigating subcontractors, workforce training and other resources for the possible Springfield factory.  The project was first publicly disclosed a month ago.

Western New England University President Anthony Caprio told the visiting rail car company executives that there are many opportunities for collaboration and mutual support.

" We have such a contribution to make. The collaboration is not to be doubted at all. It has great opportunity and great potential."

Engineering college dean Hussein Cheraghi said a civil engineering program with a concentration in transportation just started at the school.  He said the engineering department has a long history of working with local companies.

" They can benefit  a lot from the expertise and resources we have to offer. And we are very flexible so we can provide them with customized education for their employees."

State Senator Gale Candaras said she has met three times now with executives from the rail car company and she said their commitment to Springfield has strengthened each time.

" They've invested a great deal of time.  I don't think they would invest that amount of time if they were not very very interested. I am cautiously optimistic."

Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy said last month that other manufacturers planning to bid for the MBTA contract have looked at Springfield, but he would not provide details. 

Officials in Pittsfield are also trying to lure a rail car manufacturer to the former General Electric property.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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