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Los Angeles Is Ready For Springfield-Built Rail Cars, Despite Issues In Boston

A top official with a Los Angeles-area transit agency said he's "completely confident" in rail cars made by a company in Springfield, Massachusetts. That's after several issues with similar train cars made for Boston.

The latest issue was a derailment in March, which took the rail cars made by CRRC out of service.

Jeff Gonneville, the MBTA's Deputy General Manager, said during a meeting Monday that the incident was caused by faulty train parts and aging equipment along the tracks. He said the manufacturer believes the infrastructure is more to blame.

MBTA officials pulled CRRC Orange Line trains from service to resolve issues on at least three occasions before the March 16 derailment: in September 2019, after a door leaf opened while one of the cars was moving; in November 2019, because of a noise emanating from the pads that interface between the cars and wheels; and in March 2020, due to faulty bolsters.

In Springfield Tuesday for the unveiling of the first train built for Los Angeles, LA Metro's James Gallagher was asked about the issues in Boston.

"We expect — and I'm very confident — that they'll be able to produce cars that not only work well, but look well, run well, and are reliable and are attractive to our customers in Los Angeles," Gallagher said.

The deal calls for 64 cars to be delivered to southern California at a price of about $230 million. There's also the potential for LA Metro to order additional equipment. 

An LA Metro rail car at CRRC's factory in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Credit Adam Frenier / NEPM
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NEPM
An LA Metro rail car at CRRC's factory in Springfield, Massachusetts.

During the event at CRRC's factory, the economic impact of having the plant in Springfield was again touted by Mayor Domenic Sarno and area labor leaders.

Sarno said he was hopeful LA Metro would indeed increase its order. 

"That means jobs will continue. Expansion will continue," Sarno said. 

Delivering orders on time has been an issue with CRRC's Boston project. MBTA officials last year announced a major delay to the procurement, saying they now anticipate Orange Line delivery to be done in April 2023, and Red Line delivery to be done in September 2024.

An MBTA Red Line train car at CRRC's factory in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Credit Adam Frenier / NEPM
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NEPM
An MBTA Red Line train car at CRRC's factory in Springfield, Massachusetts.

They attributed the setback to issues with material availability, staffing and training at the Springfield facility where CRRC assembles components produced in China.

CRRC is set to deliver 152 Orange Line cars and 252 Red Line cars at a cost of roughly $1 billion.

The Chinese-state-owned CRRC also has a contract to build rolling stock for the Philadelphia area. 

Material from State House News Service was used in this report. 

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