What’s shiny, smooth, and has that new car smell?
Answer: New Orange Line cars currently being tested
IT’S BEEN NEARLY 40 YEARS since the Orange Line has seen new subway cars, but that changed on Tuesday when a set of four cars made a special appearance on the test track at Wellington Station in Medford.
The new cars are bright and shiny. Their ride is much smoother. And that smell – oh, that new car smell.
Gov. Charlie Baker, who is up for reelection this year, basked in the glow of the cars as T officials pointed out all the new features – wider doors, digital displays, flip-up seats, and more room. A short ride between Wellington and Sullivan Stations went off uneventfully.
The four-car set is currently being tested, and it will be followed by additional sets of four. As the vehicles arrive and complete testing, they will be sent out in train sets of six. By the end of 2019, they should be everywhere on the Orange Line.
The old cars were built between 1979 and 1981 and sometimes feel like they break down on a daily basis. The new cars are being built by CRRC, a Chinese company that is assembling the vehicles in a new plant in Springfield. The state agreed to pay $566 million for 152 Orange Line cars and 252 Red Line cars toward the end of the administration of former governor Deval Patrick in 2014. The order was expanded in late 2016, adding 120 more Red Line cars to replace the entire fleet.
The T is also investing in power and signals systems and upgrading maintenance facilities, all with the goal of increasing capacity on the Orange and Red Lines. The total investment is about $2 billion.State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the goal is to reduce the wait time between trains to four minutes. Baker, who doesn’t ride the T, knows how important the new trains are to his political future.
“Once these start running, it will dramatically increase the system’s capacity during rush hour and anyone who rides during rush hour on the Orange Line knows that the single biggest problem we’ve got there is we don’t have enough trains moving through at that point in time,” he said.