Our next subway cars could be made in China

The Boston Business Journal reports on a talk by a consultant working with the world's largest manufacturer of rail cars, which hopes to assemble $1.5 billion worth of Red and Orange Line trains in an old Westinghouse plant in Springfield out of parts manufacturered in China.

The company, for which the T would be its first US customer, is competing against several other foreign companies for the contract, including Hyundai-Rotem, which presumably learned some very valuable lessons in its over-delayed project to build commuter-line coaches for the T.



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      oh good

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      This will match nicely with the MBTA.

      Cheaply made Chinese crap = trains that break down all the time

      Match made in heaven. Will they have huge WALMART logos on them?



      iPhones are made in China too

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      iPhones are made in China too you know.

      Just because a lot of junk is made in a country doesn't mean that country doesn't have the industrial capacity to produce high quality products.


      Thanks for sharing

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      But I don't have an iPhone. Thanks.

      The crappy made products far out number the quality made ones.

      Also, the iPhone is made to Apple's specifications with high quality control. I can't say that for any other Chinese manufacturers.

      But again, thanks for sharing and your input, it is most valued today.

      PS - Did you miss the /sarcasm at the end? yeah.. its called making a joke. Get real.

      PPS - Yes I am a dick, welcome to Uhub!


      iPhones are made in China too

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      Yes they are.

      But I'm not getting the point of your argument, seeing as iPhones aren't made to last more than 2-5 years before being tossed or upgraded. They're replaceable electronics meant to be used and disposed of in small time frame. The batteries alone won't hold a charge very far past 2X their warranty periods. In fact, even if you try to fix one you're going to have to pry open Cboards literally glued and bound together, and good luck getting that back just right.

      Hell MOST consumer electronics are now made that way.

      China is perfect for that type of manufacturing, which is pretty much all consumer manufacturing now.

      Walmart and Apple love selling you coffee makers and phones every few years; meanwhile my grandmothers waffle iron that was passed on to me is still rocking strong. Consumer products that last a very long time are not good in an economic climate where quarterly returns are the single biggest focus, right behind low prices.


      I need to point out that

      I need to point out that while iPhone may not be the showcase of Chinese Manufacturing quality the anon may argue, it does remain true that low end side of most phones are even worse. The iPhone is still representative of the potential of Chinese Manufacturing for quality.

      The ultimate counterpoint remains that we shouldn't bet on one that may or may just started to shown that potential over one that have proven themselves over and over. Maybe if Boston current stock was in better shape, maybe we should take the gamble that we can get similar quality but at a lower price. But we have Orange Line system where we should have begun ordering 10 years ago instead of now. We need a guarantee, we are not in a position to gamble with enough leeway to absorb a failure case scenario.

      Americans bashing China...really...

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      Remind me again: how many hundreds of miles of subway has America built in the past five years? How many thousands of miles of high speed rail has America built in the past five years?

      China has assembled dozens of comprehensive subway systems in their cities, virtually overnight, almost completely from scratch in many cases. They went from no high speed rail to multiple, massive continent straddling lines in five years.

      You can blather all you want, but they are spanking us when it comes to heavy infrastructure.

      Americans don't have any clue how to build trains and can't seem to get anything done. Sure, the Chinese political system is corrupt and oppressive. But you cannot fault their engineering prowess. At least the Chinese have a solid record of getting it done.



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      China's engineers have been cutting serious corners to it the numbers handed down to them. Safety and reliability are not major concerns.

      They're building entire cities on newly laid fill in major earthquake zones as well.

      I commend them for actually investing in infrastructure. But their way of doing it isn't better per say.

      You can find engineering disasters anywhere

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      How about this one:
      Don't have to go far for that one. That was the collapse of 2000 Commonwealth Avenue in the 1970s, which killed four workers.

      More famously:
      The reason why 93 Fast 14 exists: the I-35 collapse in Minneapolis.

      More recently:
      45 Stuart Street collapse in (irony!) Chinatown.

      And if the publicly available numbers are to be believed, then China completely dominates the United States in railway safety.

      I know there's corruption in China and plenty of mistakes made. But it's a BIG COUNTRY. Much like the United States. Lots of stuff going on, including many successful investments. And they've quite convincingly demonstrated that they are much better at actually building and operating large train networks than we are.

      How about a Chinese problem in the US?

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      Bay Bridge’s troubled China connection
      How Caltrans’ choice of an inexperienced company left structural doubts and cost taxpayers.

      On the one hand, this story really has nothing to do with hiring a Chinese company to build subway cars, because the company hired in California had never built a bridge before.

      On the other hand, the story gets into some of the differences between a foreign company's way of doing things and the American way. This possibly is more relevant, especially with the proposed Springfield plant, because of the Hyundai-Rotem experience in Philadelphia, where Korean managers felt nothing of slapping workers and not providing any air conditioning, things that, even in our current pro-management environment, are still not considered OK.

      The animus driving this

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      The animus driving this comment abyss of reason is anti-Chinese sentiment, plain and simple.

      The desire is to conflate the notorious corruption going on in China with the MBTA's perceived inadequacies. I agree China is corrupt and the MBTA is a joke, but the joke's on you if you think that we should discount China.

      The Chinese simply offer the same product for cheaper. They have an incentive to deliver on quality. And if we care for quality as such, then the MBTA would have more money, power, etc., and political leadership would guide what to do viz. the T.

      Chinese maglev trains and general infrastructure should be the envy of everyone on the Atlantic Seaboard. There ought to be a magnetically suspended high speed train from Washington to Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Montreal. It would never happen here if NIMBYism continues to be the problem that it is, and if our political decisions are distracted by childish chauvinisms.

      I-35 was due to usage past

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      I-35 was due to usage past when it was safe to do so. It was functionally obsolete, and should have been replaced. A testament to our own problems with politics and civics for sure, but ultimately a different issue from actual construction.

      The other two were smaller occupational accidents. Tragic, but people do drop stuff.

      I don't see brand new dams, bridges, and towers failing because of wholesale engineering shortcut being applied, corruption, and a lack of government oversight.

      The I-35W bridge was deemed

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      "structurally deficent". This term, which covers everything from narrow lanes/no shoulder right up to "about to fall into the river", is often inaccurately used by the media for its "shock horror" impact.

      The bridge was not functionally obsolete even though the truss construction was an outdated design. It was an eight lane bridge that was replaced after the collapse with another eight lane bridge.

      The I-35W collapse happened because MnDOT hadn't properly maintained the bridge, had made past modifications to the bridge without properly considering the effects of additional loading resulting from said modifications, and chose to ignore the advice of their inspection contractor (URS) when problems with the bridge were brought to MnDOT's attention.

      And, as far as impact of the I-35W collapse on local bridge projects goes, it's the ongoing Whitter Bridge project on I-95 in Newburyport, and not the Fast 14 work (which were simple beam spans instead of trusses), that was accellerated due to I-35W. Like the original I-35W bridge, the Whitter Bridge is a "fracture critical" truss design - i.e. there's no redundancy in the structure should part of it fail.

      The Beijing government was able to accomplish

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      These things because THEY BASICALLY RAM THROUGH AND DO WHATEVER THE HELL THEY WANT, PEOPLE BE DAMNED. No endless community outreach, fraction of the rules and regulations that would be required in Europe or the U.S., CHEAP labor, and they accept minimal liability. The U.S. by comparison is rife also with middlemen and middlewomen (massive numbers of lawyers, accountants,etc.) who must get their cut.

      Life is simpler in communist mainland China. And as another poster mentioned, quality control is a deadly serious issue.

      The point is that China has

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      The point is that China has done a better job on quality control -- at least in the rail sector -- than the United States; their railroad safety record is significantly better than ours.

      And even with the Bay Bridge fiasco, a good chunk of the fault lies with Caltrans quality control and the American engineers who let the bad work happen because they were obsessed with hurrying things along.

      Shoddy work is not the fault of "democracy" or community process. Maybe you can blame our sluggishness on those factors, but at some point, it's also a matter of competence. And there is a severe lack of competence in American passenger railroad planning.

      P.S. I'm an American, I'm just not willing to participate in the jingoistic, knee-jerk slander of Chinese engineers.

      Looking at the client list of

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      Looking at the client list of "Changchun Railway Vehicles" it seems their stock operates almost entirely in warm climates. Can't wait to see how they deal with the cold, ice, and salt of New England winters...

      Except for Beijing, Tianjin,

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      Except for Beijing, Tianjin, Harbin, Shenyang, and a lot of other cold cities in which their stock operates...


      I hope the state learned

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      I hope the state learned their lesson after the Hyundai-Rotem debacle and won't give the contract to an inexperienced company again just because they're the lowest bidder. That never ends well. We need reliable cars from an experienced European or (gasp) North American builder who has done work for a North American transit system before.


      And the best way to accomplish that

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      within current bidding laws is to insist on a rigirous testing program of half a dozen of the trains/cars.etc. BEFORE authorization is given to construct the full order. This has been the problem with virtually everything the MBTA has taken delivery of in the past four decades, going back to the Boeing LRVs.

      And, yes, even the Kawasaki doubler decker cars and the Kinki-Sharo Type 7s were not immune from teething problems that could have been avoided with more extensive "in service" testing of the prototypes

      Shouldn't these geniuses

      Shouldn't these geniuses spend $1.5 billion on repairing the tracks and traffic lights which are the source of all these delays? Of course not, they'd rather extend the lines, rebuild stations, and raise the fare every year!


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      What good is fixing rails when you do not have any trains to drive on them? These cars that are going to be replaced are well over 20-30 years old. It's time to replace them.


      I know right? Half the delays

      I know right? Half the delays are disabled trains lately. It's glorious but I need to get more creative so I'm getting some new trains, see what happens, you know? #MBTA

      The trains themselves are

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      The trains themselves are also cause for many delays. Many of the red line cars are 45 years old. Everything on them is a cause for delay. Ever smell the breaks burning on them? The doors won't close or they will just refuse to pull out of a station because of some mechanical or electrical problem. They need to be replaced, no way around that.


      If only that were true!

      But when was the last extension built? The Orange Line Southwest Corridor extension opened almost 30 years ago. I'd love to see more extensions, but whether or not they are built has nothing to do with the need for equipment replacement. The current OL and RL fleets have aged out and need to be replaced.

      Since most of the cars on the

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      Since most of the cars on the streets in MA are made in foreign countries I don't see why this should be an issue.

      As long as they're quality

      As long as they're quality, like Siemen's Blue Line fleet, and for a good value, I don't care where they're made.

      I just wish the whole "made vs assembled" thing was tossed out the window, though. The parts are being made all over the world, and then might be plugged together in Springfield? What good is that? Why do we have to make it more expensive to order just so we give some folks temporary work putting the square peg into the square hole?


      Its dumb

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      I agree. Its 100% dumb. Lots of quality train makers exist in Europe and elsewhere, but won't.. or do not have the ability to setup shop in the states. Its just simply stupid. But you know, our gov't knows best so they seem to think this is the best way. (sarcasm)

      Siemens did a great job the blue line trains. Almost all the problems on the blue line are usually switching or wiring issues, and never an out of service train.



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      Stupid when you realize that first it's adding more to the cost of bids because it requires most of them to set up assembly plants here from scratch, while turning around and demanding the lowest bid possible.

      That's one surefire way to make sure you end up with the worst possible contractor. You're making their cost of business more expensive while demanding they undercut everyone else.

      You get what you pay for.


      The goal of any Massachusetts

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      The goal of any Massachusetts politician is maximizing their personal power and opportunities for graft. The good of the state and representing their constituents is way down on the priority list unless they are in a competitive district. Most politicians in this state aren't in competitive districts. So they have plenty of time to screw around.


      I don't like to defend

      I don't like to defend politicians and contest the idea of evidence of graft. But in this case, there's a case that can be reasonably argued that this is not an example of it. The reason why were has this "Made in MA" BS is not an grab for more graft, but because they are trying to represent their constituents if in a shortsighted matter. Any politician who removes that requirement will be interpreted by many as cutting out an opportunity for jobs. Who want that mark on their record?

      This is the *first* time any

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      This is the *first* time any MBTA procurement has the Buy Massachusetts clause.

      Whose bad idea was it? And why don't any other politicians have the courage to support mass transit by standing up to them?

      The primary builders in

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      The primary builders in Europe are Bombardier, Alstom, and Siemens as well as smaller builders CAF Talgo, and our old friends AnsaldoBreda, All six of these companies have U.S. facilities. Bombardier is actually based in Canada, but through acquisition of other companies over the years, has multiple plants in Europe.

      The fact that the timing of

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      The fact that the timing of this order coincides with two builders from China (besides CNR, CSR is also interested in building the MBTA cars) desiring to build assembly facilities in the U.S. could mean we get cars cheaper than we would have otherwise, since both might underbid the other (plus all the other builders) in order to get the contract. If only established builders that already have U.S. assembly facilities were bidding, then the price would be higher.

      The MBTA procurement is going to be scored on multiple factors including price, engineering experience, and the number of jobs created in Mass.

      Short history of T procurement

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      The last three orders the T has put in have been good, bad, good and bad.

      Most recently were the Rotem new double-deck commuter rail cars. The best that can be said about them is that unlike the Type 8s on the Green Line, they haven't been derailing. They're otherwise pretty shoddy, from doors that don't work to signboards and automated announcements which are out of synch to chintzy bike racks (when other states have figured out there's a benefit to carrying cyclists on the train). They're new enough that the jury is still out, and if they are mechanically reliable (other than the doors) they could enjoy a long, serviceable life, but given their performance so far that seems unlikely.

      Before them came the Siemens Blue Line order, which is a mitigated success. The cars have been out for 7 years now, and they just seem to work. The order was delayed a couple of years during procurement, but the end product is pretty good. Siemens should get extra special bonus points for delivering a not-shitty product, even if it wasn't on time.

      Before that came the dreaded Breda green line cars. These are the Type 8s, the low-floor cars which took about 15 years to complete delivery because they were such crap, with the T at times breaking the contract completely and admitting they bought a lemon. The ones that derailed with startling frequency, but luckily mostly at low speeds since they were limited to 25 mph for quite some time. They have stopped derailing, for the most part, although no one will be sad to see them go. If Breda gets the contract, someone's hand would be deep in someone's pocket. (They don't seem to have bid.)

      Before that came the Kawasaki double-deck commuter rail coaches, which are the same as the Rotems except they don't suck, and around the same time the Kinki-Sharyo Type 7s that still run on the Green Line completed the second half of their order. Those cars are decidedly unshitty, although they're just as inaccessible for people who can't climb steep stairs, which is why you will almost always see a two-car train of a Type 7 paired with a Type 8.

      So, basically, of the bidders listed in this article, you have Kawasaki and Siemens, who have made good products for the T before, Hyundai-Rotem, which has made bad products, and several others with varying track records. Hopefully we'll get non-shitty cars this go-round.

      Now, as to the "build them in Mass" bit. Yes, it's dumb. Yes, it would be cheaper to have them built in an existing factory elsewhere in the country which likely has the capacity. But, this is $1.5 billion that is being authorized to be spent in Metro Boston for the benefit of Metro Boston. New Red Line cars have no indirect impact on Springfield or Pittsfield (yes, the success of Kendall Square permeates to the state budget, but that's a couple of steps removed from downtown Springfield). There is certainly an economic benefit to bringing an assembly plant to Western Mass, and while it's likely to bring less overall benefit than sending the orders out of state to existing plants, it's politically expedient for this necessary expenditure. There is the upside, too, that if somehow whatever comes out of it isn't total crap, someone in another state might place an order through it, and it comes closer to paying for itself.

      The Rotem cars will prove to

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      The Rotem cars will prove to be a disaster. Plastic door mechanisms that shatter in cold weather, a serious safety flaw in the cab signal system, people getting locked in the bathrooms, generally poor workmanship and cheap materials
      Plenty of Ex MBTA retired consultants kept busy though

      And every one of the problems

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      you pointed to with the Rotems can be directly attributed to inadequate specifications and testing procedures prior to final acceptance. Guess what, those issues are the fault of the MBTA, and not the contractor.

      Fine with me

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      Who cares if they are from China? This is Boston, not redneckville. We're happy to interact with anyone around the world, whether they want to buy our products, send us their parts for assembly, or learn from our universities.


      Because USA Made isn't good enough?

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      United Streetcar out of Oregon.
      I wouldn't say they are local, but they are local compared to China.
      And why wouldn't the MBTA go out of country? Devalue is always in another country trying to drum up some kind of business relations. Why keep the money here in the US? That would make sense.