A ceremony was held Tuesday at the CRRC factory in Springfield, Mass., where the Chinese-owned train manufacturer announced delivery of the first of at least 64 new subway cars ordered by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Standing in front of a train car festooned with a big bow, officials from Los Angeles, China, and Springfield delivered speeches and cut a ceremonial ribbon. Those on hand included Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, who praised CRRC for building a state-of-the-art facility where the subway cars are made, revitalizing his city’s economy and creating what he described as good manufacturing jobs.
Left unmentioned were the problems the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has had with its new Orange Line cars built at the very same factory.
The MBTA has been forced to pull the Orange Line cars out of service several times since they were introduced in 2019 due to a variety of technical issues. Those problems include doors suddenly opening on moving trains, strange noises coming from the undercarriage, and, on some of the cars, wheel assembly components wearing faster than anticipated.
The new Orange Line cars remain out of service after the latest incident, a derailment outside Wellington station in Medford on March 12. Although officials say they are still trying to determine the exact cause, it’s believed a design flaw involving the wheel assemblies may have been a contributing factor. While CRRC admits there is a problem with some materials used in the wheel assemblies, they also point to the MBTA’s aging track and switches as contributing to the derailment. The MBTA has not said when the new cars will be returned to service.
Los Angeles Metro spokesman Brian Haas told GBH news that the organization is aware of the problems with the cars delivered to the MBTA.
"The CRRC produced railcars for L.A. Metro are of a different design intended for a different type of system," Haas said. "They're subject to a rigorous safety and performance test regime in terms of design and safety of each car. We're confident CRRC is producing a safe, useful and reliable car for our customers."
In 2016, Los Angeles awarded CRRC the contract to build 64 new cars for the city’s Red and Purple lines. The contract is worth $647 million.
James Gallagher, the Los Angeles Metro's chief operating officer, joined the festivities in Springfield and praising his city’s relationship with CRRC.
“We really couldn’t be happier with the progress CRRC has made to deliver the cars,” he said. “We look forward to working with CRRC and the people here in Springfield to transform our region into a more robust transit system for our residents.”
Gallagher also said that Los Angeles has the option of ordering another 218 cars from CRRC.
The MBTA has a nearly $1 billion contract with CRRC to replace the entire fleet of aging Red and Orange Line trains. Only 18 of the 152 Orange Line cars on order have been delivered and put in service — and those ran only briefly — while the first 12 of 252 Red Line cars have been delivered. They all will remain out of service until the MBTA is confident all problems have been identified and fixed.
Despite the issues the MBTA has experienced with CRRC’s train cars, Sarno praised the Chinese company and the economic opportunity the company is bringing to his city. He said he hopes other transit agencies around the country will place orders and enable a future expansion of the factory.
“Jobs will continue, expansion will continue, and also marketing will continue to other metros across the United States of America, North America, and the world,” Sarno said.