CRRC: On a roll in the US
Jia Bo (left), vice-president of CRRC MA; Zhou Chuanhe (fourth from left), president of CRRC MA; Brian Shortsleeve (fourth from right), chief administrator and acting general manager of MBTA; Stephanie Pollack (third from right), secretary and CEO of the Massachusetts Department Of Transportation; An Zhongyi (second from right), president of CRRC Changchun; and other guests stand in front of the mock-up of Boston's new Orange Line subway car built by CRRC, which was unveiled to the public at Boston's City Hall Plaza on April 13. Hong Xiao/China Daily
Tammie Vancini, 52, was a little anxious about her upcoming first trip to China.
But talking about her impression of China, the Springfield, Massachusetts, resident couldn't hide the excitement in her voice. "China has a lot of people, intelligent people, innovation, and, of course, food," she said.
On April 7, Vancini started to meet those people and eat that food. She was among 33 newly hired employees of China Railroad Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) MA Corp in Springfield to arrive at CRRC's manufacturing plant in Changchun, the capital city of Jilin province in North China.
Vancini, an electrical assembler at CRRC's plant in Springfield, and her colleagues went to China for a three-month training program to learn railcar manufacturing technology at the world's largest manufacturer of railroad rolling stock.
Springfield – a city of about 154,000 people in western Massachusetts that is home to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – is becoming a manufacturing hub for CRRC to assemble rail cars in the US. CRRC is building a 204,000-square-foot, $95 million plant, part of its $566.6 million contract with Boston's transit authority signed in October 2014.
CRRC will manufacture 152 railcars for the Orange Line and 132 cars for the Red Line to replace the cars now in service, which were built by Hawker Siddeley Canada between 1979 and 1981.
Since signing its initial contract with CRRC, Boston's transit agency added a $277 million contract for an additional 120 Red Line cars, a deal that includes the option to purchase 14 more cars.
Production is scheduled to get underway in April 2018, with the cars entering service between 2019 and 2023. The plant is expected to create jobs for 150 people.
The first subway in the United States started operating in Boston on Sept 1, 1897, and Stephanie Pollack, secretary and CEO of the Massachusetts Transportation Department, said, "We are confident that CRRC will be able to deliver the vehicles that we need to move the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) into the 21st century."
The Boston contract — China's first major rail contract in North America — was won before the June 2014 merger of CNR Corporation and CSR Corporation, forming CRRC Corp Ltd, a state-owned enterprise that became the largest train maker in the world. CRRC has projects in more than 100 countries and regions. It has 170,000 employees.
"The MBTA is the oldest subway system in America," said Brian Shortsleeve, chief administrator of the MBTA. "When we decided to upgrade and modernize our subway system eight years ago, we picked CRRC and they are doing a great job. We are really excited to modernize the subway system with these vehicles."
"Boston has many firsts," said An Zhongyi, general manager of CRRC Changchun. "In particular, the MBTA established the first subway of the United States here in 1897. We understand the primary commitment to having a public transportation system available to residents and visitors."
Vancini said she joined CRRC at the beginning of this year because "I wanted to broaden my horizon. I wanted to be part of an innovative company expanding here in the United States.''
And expanding is what CRRC is doing.
Since being awarded the Boston contract, it has won contracts in Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles, and the company is eyeing other major US cities, such as New York.
Jia Bo, vice-president of CRRC, said it is CRRC's "comprehensive strength'' that makes it stand out from other international competitors in bidding for deals. "The transit agencies see the maximum value from our projects," he told China Daily in an interview at his office in Boston.
Jia also pointed to CRRC accumulating a great amount of experience and improving its technology through its development of China's rail infrastructure as giving the company an edge over competitors.
"The American rail transit system is facing upgrading, and after taking office, US President Trump has emphasized strengthening infrastructure construction, that includes the construction of rail infrastructure," Jia said.
Jia believes there is plenty of room for China-US cooperation in the rail transit field and CRRC's winning of deals in the US indicates the openness of trade and investment between the two countries is overwhelming.