Expect delays in delivery of new Red, Orange line cars
T plans to seek financial penalties from Chinese manufacturer
MBTA OFFICIALS said on Monday that the delivery of 404 new Red and Orange line vehicles will be delayed by at least a year, and they plan to invoke a penalty clause against the Chinese manufacturer of $500 per day per vehicle.
“At the heart of the issue has been production output from the CRRC Springfield facility,” said Jeffrey Gonneville, the deputy general manager of the T, in a virtual presentation to the Fiscal and Management Control Board.
CRRC secured the huge vehicle contract with the T by offering a low price and by promising to complete final assembly of the vehicles at a new Springfield facility. Gonneville said a series of problems existed at the Springfield facility prior to the pandemic that have been accentuated by COVID-19. He mentioned materials availability, manufacturing workflow, production instructions, and employee levels and training.
COVID-19 shut down the Springfield facility from the third week of March until late May. Gonneville said the facility currently has 150 production workers, the level needed to meet its contractual demands.
Those delays will also push back the launch of more frequent service on the two subway lines. Orange Line headways, or the time between trains, now will not drop from 6 minutes to 4 ½ minutes until the summer of 2023, while the fall from 4 ½ minutes to 3 minutes on the Red Line will not come until the winter of 2024.
Gonneville said the T’s contract with CRRC allows the transit authority to collect penalty charges for each day a vehicle is late. “We can and certainly do intend to assess at the end of this contract,” said Gonneville, who also described a number of initiatives the T, is taking including embedding workers at the Springfield facility, to speed up production.Joe Aiello, the chair of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, said the focus needs to be on the quality of the final product. “I’m less concerned about the day we get the last vehicle. I’m more concerned about making sure as the cars get here they’re exactly what we need at the T and they will stand the test of time,” he said.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said she disturbed by the delays. “I am frustrated and disappointed that we haven’t been able to keep the vehicles on schedule,” she said.