Eng confident Chinese subway car manufacturer will meet its obligations
Despite unpromising US market, GM says CRRC is committed
THE CHINESE COMPANY building Red and Orange line trains for the MBTA faces a bleak future in the US market, but T General Manager Phillip Eng appears fairly confident the company will live up to its obligations.
At a hearing of the MBTA board on Thursday, Eng reported that he, T Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville, Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca, Transportation Undersecretary Monica Tibbits-Nutt, and Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao held a virtual meeting on August 16 with the chairman of CRRC, Sun Yongcai.
“We wanted to hear directly that they are committed to this project,” said Eng.
CRRC’s commitment is a question mark. The Chinese company made a splash in the US market in 2014 by securing a contract to build new Red and Orange line cars for the MBTA. The company underbid its closest competitor by $200 million and sweetened the offer by promising to build an assembly plant in Springfield. Contracts quickly followed with transit authorities in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Massachusetts in 2017 upped its order for Red Line cars.
Eng indicated the quality issues have largely been addressed through hard work by CRRC and MBTA officials working together. He said new Orange Line cars are averaging 114,000 miles between service failures, well above the 90,000-mile target.
The general manager said he is not worried that federal restrictions on transit funding have turned the US market into a quagmire for CRRC.
“I am not worried about what their future is with regards to other work,” he said. “What I am worried about is this project. They are committed to it. They know the importance of the rolling stock to us. They also know the importance of delivering that rolling stock, not only for us, but for their own purposes. They take a lot of pride in their work.”
Eng said production output remains a problem. The latest schedule calls for all Orange Line cars to be delivered by December 2023 and all Red Line cars by September 2026, but meeting those timelines is unlikely. Fiandaca, the state transportation secretary, hinted in July that the T and CRRC had “reset expectations” with regard to production, and on Thursday Eng said the T and CRRC are developing a new schedule for vehicle deliveries.“That meeting was to set new parameters and to make sure we are moving together in the right direction,” he said.