Boston’s Dumpster Fire of a Deal with Chinese State-Owned Manufacturer CRRC Blazes On

Feb 21 2023 |
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A new Boston Herald report shows CRRC flouted transit agency criticism of the state-owned firm’s manufacturing defects and delays.

Closed-door meeting minutes obtained by the Boston Herald expose the extent of CRRC MA’s indifference to its failure to fulfill an $870.5 million contract with Boston’s transit agency and the manufacturing defects of the cars it has delivered.

We’ve been following this CRRC saga for a while now, so you may be familiar with some of the details. But to sum up: After submitting a bid that was $200 million lower than the minimum independent cost estimate, Chinese state-owned company CRRC won the contract with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to design and manufacture 284 new Red and Orange Line cars in 2014. It was tapped again in 2016 to produce 120 more Red Line cars.

We at the Alliance for American Manufacturing were concerned from the start, alarmed that Boston’s taxpayer-funded contract would grant a company backed by extensive support from the Chinese government a means of penetrating the U.S. public transit market and price out domestic manufacturers by offering below-market bids.

But as Boston’s experience with CRRC has shown time and time again, you get what you pay for.

Since winning its contract with Boston, CRRC has earned itself infamy. It has failed to deliver any new train cars since July 2022 and is nearly two years behind schedule. Of the 34 Orange Line cars the company promised to deliver MBTA in January 2022, only nine have been received, the Boston Herald reports.

The trains CRRC has produced for MBTA have been plagued by problems, including a battery explosion, derailment, and braking failures, among other disturbing defects. However, all these troubles are unsurprising, really, given the chaos of CRRC’s Springfield, Mass., factory, where final assembly occurs, that a Boston Globe report revealed in January.

It gets worse. The Boston Herald also reported that CRRC has “refused safety-critical hardware on trains, and submitted ‘approval to proceed’ forms to bypass inspections where cars were missing materials.” When the MBTA identified defects and necessary repairs for the cars at CRRC’s Springfield facility, the company “force-closed” the quality item reports.

When asked to respond to the Boston Herald’s report, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey said that an independent team of experts is examining CRRC’s fulfillment of its contract and that the team would maintain “a constant presence” at the company’s facility in Springfield, Mass.

Though MBTA could ultimately fine CRRC $500 for every car CRRC is supposed to manufacture each day the company is delayed in fulfilling its contract, the transit agency has not expressed interest in enforcing the penalty.