Riders on the newly reopened Orange Line may be enjoying new train cars — but MBTA leaders are concerned about obtaining more.

MBTA board members at their monthly meeting discussed the delay in the production of new subway cars that they ordered from the Chinese company CRRC. The $2 billion contract calls for 152 new Orange Line cars and 252 Red Line vehicles. So far, just 72 Orange Line cars have been delivered and are now in service, and only 12 Red Line cars have been received. The car shells are built in China before being outfitted with wheels, motors, doors and other components at a CRRC-owned plant in Springfield.

MBTA Deputy General Manager Jeff Gonneville reported that, although the original contract stipulated that all new Orange Line cars be completed by January of this year, the delivery has been delayed by 17 months until mid-2023. And the projected summer 2023 completion date for the new Red Line cars has been pushed back 21 months to the summer of 2025.

Although supply chain issues along with delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were cited as reasons for the holdup, Gonneville said there were concerns about the number and retention of workers CRRC was employing and the quality of work being done. He said the MBTA is now actively managing and monitoring CRRC to assist with improving the production output and quality assurance.

MBTA board member Mary Beth Mello expressed the frustration of fellow board members at Thursday's meeting, saying, ”We can't go on like this. We desperately need cars. … So, I would encourage you and the team and general manager as well, to be as innovative and creative and bold as possible.”

Gonneville replied, “I can say that we are looking at what alternatives we have in order to stay engaged with CRRC, but also to protect the authority and frankly get us quality cars. “

He added that the MBTA is pursuing every opportunity to mitigate further delays. According to Goneville, there is a contractual penalty for not complying with the delivery dates of $500 per car per day — but that has yet to be enacted.

MBTA General Manager Stephen Poftak reported on the completion of work during the 30-day Orange Line shutdown, which concluded last week. He praised MBTA staff and the workers who replaced tracks, ties and signal systems on time.

Although several slow zones were removed, some remain between the North Station and Assembly stops. Poftak said they require more testing but speed restrictions along that stretch of track should be lifted in the next several days.

During the shutdown, around half of the 100,000 riders who usually take the Orange Line daily used the alternative shuttle buses. The rest used the Commuter Rail or traveled by car, bike or on foot, or worked from home if they were able.