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Massachusetts shows off new Chinese railway cars

By HONG XIAO in Springfield, Massachusetts | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-12-19 23:08
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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (right) tours a completed CRRC rail car at the company's Massachusetts plant on Tuesday. Huang Ping, Chinese consul general in New York, whose consular district includes Massachusetts, is in the right row, third from front. HONG XIAO / CHINA DAILY

A Massachusetts transportation official said on Tuesday that she "could not think of a better holiday present" than the delivery of two new train cars completed in the state at a factory operated by a Chinese company.

"Part of the T's efforts to turn itself around and improve service includes rebuilding its culture from the inside out, with a central focus on its customers," said Stephanie Pollack, secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

"While the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) still has a long way to go to, today is a major milestone in that these two new rail cars are the result of the system investments we've been making over the past three years and are the first to be produced in Massachusetts that will ultimately lead to an entire fleet replacement," she said.

Pollack spoke on Tuesday a week before Christmas during a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the first pair of Orange Line cars — finished at the China Railroad Rolling Stock Corp factory in Springfield — to be delivered to the MBTA.

Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno (first row, third from left), Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (center, with blue tie), MassDOT Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack (first row, fourth from right), and Huang Ping (seond from right), Chinese consul general in New York pose for a group photo with CRRC workers after the ceremony on Tuesday at CRRC’s assembly plant in Springfield, Massachusetts. Hong Xiao / China Daily

To fulfill a contract with the MBTA signed in October 2014, CRRC MA is manufacturing 404 subway cars, including 152 new Orange Line and 252 Red Line vehicles for the MBTA, which is centered in Boston.

The new cars will replace ones that were built between 1979 and 1981, which have logged more than 2 million miles.

"These cars are going to be the first step of improving the reliability of our system, which our customers have been really wanting for a long time," said Jeff Gonneville, MBTA interim general manager.

"This is about bringing the T into the 21st century," said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, using the nickname for the Boston region's transit authority.

"We are proud to deliver on time to America's first transit system, CRRC's first subway cars built in the United States by talented workers standing with us today," said CRRC Chairman and President Jia Bo.

The new trains include features such as levers at doors that will roll out a ramp for wheelchair users or those with baby carriages, so they don't have to worry about crossing the gap between the train and the platform. There also are more emergency intercoms for passengers, wider door openings, LED lighting, automatic passenger-counters and closed-circuit surveillance cameras. 

The cars arrived from China to Springfield as steel shells. Workers in Massachusetts installed the wiring, motors, wheels, assemblies and interiors and did final tests.

The 204,000-square-foot assembly facility in Springfield is equipped with a 2,240-foot test track and staging and storage areas. The factory, which began operating in mid-April, has employed approximately 130 people locally.

Jia said that when the factory is at full speed in 2021, it will be assembling cars for three systems: the MBTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in the Philadelphia area, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"Our achievements prove the existence of well-nourished partnerships born from mutual cooperation and respect. We look forward to building CRRC's presence in the US using our journey here in Massachusetts as the footprint to success," Jia added.

Springfield, a city of about 154,000 in western Massachusetts, was once a national center for railcar manufacturing. It was the home of Wason Manufacturing Co, which was one of the largest makers of railroad cars and locomotives in the US from 1845 until the Depression. 

"We are bringing manufacturing back to Springfield," said Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.

As a local, Gonneville said he knows "the importance of good manufacturing jobs here in Western Massachusetts, especially Springfield".

"There will be 400 more of these cars you will be producing along the way for us in Boston," he enthusiastically told the workers at the plant. "And please build them faster because by God, we need them!"

Huang Ping, Chinese consul general in New York said, "CRRC's partnership with Massachusetts is a good example of China-US win-win cooperation and will benefit everyone's life."

He said that despite turbulence in trade between China and the US, China is still "not only a huge market for the US, but also a reliable partner in addressing serious challenges such as drugs, climate change and regional security".

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