Subway Cars Built In Springfield Factory To Begin Passenger Service In Boston

Aug 13, 2019

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker visited the CRRC MA factory in east Springfield last December to witness the first pair of Orange Line cars built for the MBTA come off the assembly line. Eight months later, the first new Orange Line cars are going into passenger service.
Credit WAMC

New subway cars made at a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts will make a long awaited debut tomorrow on the public transit system in greater Boston. 

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced Monday the first new Orange Line trains will go into passenger service by midday Wednesday.

The rollout of the new six-car trains has been delayed numerous times since Gov. Charlie Baker attended a ceremony last December to see the first pair of the new rail cars come off the assembly line at the CRRC MA factory in east Springfield.

"The cars these are replacing have been on the system since the '70s and have over 2 million miles on them," said Baker.

Before the new rail cars could be put into service, extensive testing was required to address “safety critical issues,” according to Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack.  Each of the cars will have traveled about 7,000 miles before the first paying passenger steps aboard.

The new cars are more spacious, with more room for passengers to enter and leave. The new six-car train sets can be run closer together than the current ones meaning a 40 percent increase in service frequency once all 152 new Orange Line cars are delivered, according to the MBTA.

The arrival of the brand new rail cars is a rare bright spot in what has been a grim summer for the MBTA that included a derailment in June on the Red Line.

CRRC is also contracted to build a complete replacement of the Red Line fleet.

As it celebrates its subway cars being put into passenger service in the United States for the first time, the Chinese-owned company is gearing up to fight against a bi-partisan effort in Washington to choke off CRRC’s pursuit of new business.

A “Get The Facts” webpage has been created to refute what CRRC-MA spokesperson Lydia Rivera said is “misinformation” and “exaggerated statements” she said are being spread by “anti-CRRC politicians” and competitors in a campaign “bankrolled by protectionists.”

"CRRC MA poses no threat to the public by building railcars for America's transit authorities," said Rivera in an interview.

A retired U.S. Army General, John Adams, told the House Transportation Committee at a hearing in May that it would be a threat to national security if CRRC won a $500 million contract to build subway cars for the DC Metro System.

"Chinese  built-in surveillance cameras could track the movements and routines of passengers searching for high value targets from whom intelligence officials could vacuum data using the trains built-in wi fi systems," Adams testified.

Other witnesses complained CRRC can unfairly underbid its competitors because it is subsidized by the Chinese government.

In addition to MBTA, CRRC has contracts with the transit agencies in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

The Springfield factory employs 179 people, according to Rivera.

" We have created jobs. We have improved the economy in Springfield. If legislation passes to ban CRRC MA from bidding on federally-funded contracts, yes, we are in trouble and the facility in Springfield along with the employees there are vulnerable," said Rivera.

CRRC is also caught up in President Trump’s trade war with China.  The shells of the rail cars, which are made in China and shipped to Springfield for final assembly, are subject to a 25 percent tariff.  It is an added cost that, under the contract with the MBTA, CRRC must absorb.