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Officials,Ironworkers Celebrate Train Car Factory Construction Milestone


Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was in Springfield today to mark a major milestone in the construction of a $95 million rail car factory.

   Officials with CRRC MA said construction of the 204,000 square foot factory is running about two months ahead of schedule, and hiring will start in October to begin filling the 150 jobs that will be available at the plant so that production of new subway cars for greater Boston’s mass transit system can begin on time.

    Gov. Baker said it was great news that the factory construction is ahead of schedule and he thanked the ironworkers who gathered for a ceremony to “top out” the building by hoisting the last steel beam into place.

  " This is a great day," said Baker.

   CRRC was awarded a $566 million contract in 2014 by the administration of former Gov. Deval Patrick to manufacture 284 subway cars for the MBTA. The contract stipulated the manufacturing work had to be done in Massachusetts.  CRRC chose to locate the factory at the site of a former Westinghouse manufacturing complex in East Springfield.

  "One of the great things about this project is: manufactured in western Massachusetts and put to use in eastern Massachusetts.  This will, I believe, become a beachhead for  a lot of the activity CRRC is going to do be doing around the rest of the United States. They are bidding on projects all over the country."

   CRRC, which is a unit of the Chinese government-owned rail system, is the largest maker of passenger rail cars in the world.  Springfield will be the company’s North American base of operations.

   The company already has a number of engineers and managers based in Springfield. The factory’s general manager, Mark Smith, said they are working with the local unions, vocational schools, and Western New England University to train the people who will be hired to manufacture the rail cars.

  "The first round of folks we are going to hire will go to China for in depth training, and  then a second round will go over and they will come back and be our core training team here in Springfield," Smith explained.

   The subway cars that are due to begin coming out of the Springfield factory in 2018 will replace vehicles that are more than 40 years old on the MBTA’s Red and Orange Lines.  The MBTA’s acting general manager Brian Shortsleeve said replacing the old rail cars is part of a comprehensive improvement plan for the two subway lines.

   " Forty percent of MBTA subway riders take the Red or Orange line," said Shortsleeve. " That is 250,000 people who count on the Red and Orange Lines to get to work in the morning and to get home at night. So, having new cars on the way is a big deal for our riders."

  To commemorate the factory construction milestone, the final steel beam with a small evergreen tree, an American flag, and ironworkers banner attached was hoisted into place.  The beam was painted white and signed by the dignitaries and about a dozen ironworkers.

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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