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.

The T ordered 152 new Orange Line cars that were supposed to be fully delivered by January 2022 and are now forecasted to arrive 15 months late in April 2023. The 252 Red Line cars ordered by the T were supposed to all be delivered by September 2023 but will now arrive a year later in September 2024.

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.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

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.