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Growing opposition to the company building our new subway cars being led by the company's competitors

MassLive.com reports a congressional committee will look at the potential national-security threat posed by letting American subway systems buy rolling stock from a Chinese company with an assembly plant in Springfield - you just never know if the Chinese government will install cameras and use them to spy on us God-fearing Americans.

It turns out that much of the fear is being drummed up by the Rail Security Alliance, which MassLive.com notes is funded by companies that are losing out on bids to CRRC, the company the T hired to build new Orange and Red Line cars.

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There is an important nuanced conversation to have here but "spy film drama" isn't it. Not surprised which one we're actually having, though.

There should be enough demand that so that a viable , exemplary rail car be made in the US . Never mind the camera aspect, what about contaminated software that can be machinated to create chaos , or even worse. All these communication devices that are slaved into control devices have potential to be corrupted as well. Caveat emptor , its a brave new world out there , greed is rampant !

Which, in the case of China for the past 30 years, competing with quasi-slave labor and actual slave labor. They then get to dump on the U.S. and other 'developed' countries with similar trade deals. Tiny tarriffs. While China puts up business barriers, imposes higher tarriffs and fees. Results of 'Free' trade with China for the past 30 years are non-stop trade deficits. HUGE DEFICITS on the U.S. end. Every year for the past 30 years.


I have a Japanese car. It has a backup camera. It may have another camera and a GPS unit hidden in all that electronic gear. Are the Japanese spying on us? Congress doesn't seem to care...

With most of the working population now carrying electronic devices with radios that continuously broadcast unique IDs (for connecting to data networks) there's quite a bit of data which could be surreptitiously gathered about the comings and goings of military & national security personnel -- even if the data traffic itself is encrypted. Those agencies don't have as large a presence here so it's probably less worrisome for the T.

With modern data mining you could probably figure out who could be compromised based on who might be having an affair or getting drunk while on the clock or...

Transit control systems are of an international design. Good luck finding semiconductors designed and manufactured in the US on equipment that is the same. Even if the trains are designed and made in the US, the signaling and switching systems uses international parts.

There needs to be ways for an operator to kill power and/or apply the brakes when someone goes wrong. That system should be mechanical or at least electronically separated from everything else.

'' There needs to be ways for an operator to kill power and/or apply the brakes when someone goes wrong. That system should be mechanical or at least electronically separated from everything else.''

Dont the cars have dead man brakes anymore?

And now that you mention it, most of those phones are made by the Chinese too. . . now I am paranoid about everything!

I'm not so sure that this is entirely made up.

Sorry I just dont trust CRRC with a 10 foot pole. Alot of chatter on cyber security venues suggests the Chinese have way too many hooks into our electronics and what not. Why would subway cars be any different.

While we were told the electronics would be made here, I just don't buy that. CRRC is a chinese gov't company........

I totally see why the WMATA doesnt them. I'm not entirely sure the MBTA should have either.

The key take away I took from this article is how the CRRC is using Chinese Gov't money underbid. Regardless of what you think, their bid was way lower than the second lowest (Siemens).

It's like TVs now.. remember when LCD TVs were over 1k each. Now you can buy one at CVS for less than $50, Know why? because it has technology in it to look at your viewing habits and send them back to the manufacture. That data is sold, and this is how they subsidize your TVs cost. This is why non-smart tvs are always significant more.

They have a very valid point... very.


I hear Market Basket has a wicked sale on tin foil.


I work in cyber security. You don't. I eat and breath this shit all day. You don't.

Thanks for your useless comment anyways.


If your cyber security policy depends on where the products are physically made, it's not a very good policy.

The Chinese probably have backdoors to the backend systems of most heavy machinery builders world wide. They already are buying up transatlantic network trunks, make a good portion of the world's network hardware, etc.

The ability for a foreign power to cripple key systems is very real and scary. There's little indication that buying trains from Germany or Canada would have changed that dynamic substantially.

The US's failing transportation system is the larger, more immediate threat.


If/when you studied for CISSP you probably learned about 'classification'. Subway cars do not contain highly classified or sensitive data.

If you're using an MBTA car as a SCIF, then you have other problems.

Let's say the Chinese are putting chips in the subway cars that can do...something. What are they trying to do with subway cars?

Find out where I go? There's WAY more obvious ways than hoping I get on a subway car. Use chips that can hack into my phone by acting as endpoints or something? That's super obvious. We could easily test for that. And there are WAY more obvious ways to do that than trying to catch my phone when it's in one of their subway cars.

TVs tattling on my viewing habits or other consumer-esque data makes sense and can make the manufacturer money. China hoping to use our subway cars as some sort of tattling device just doesn't seem like an obvious ploy for anything than some sort of location data but even then, it's going to be super-difficult to correlate that with anything useful. It's not like their going to use the subway car to identify a target (in real time?) and then like send a sniper out to kill that person or something fantastical like that.

I'm just not seeing the practicality. I won't buy a Huawei phone, but I don't think I'd have any issue getting into a CRRC subway car.

The electronic motor control system on the cars is being supplied by Mitsubishi and the signal control system by Alstom. So Japan and France will have to be in on the spying plan for it to work.

About halfway down in the article: "There are no US-based companies in the passenger rail and transit car business."

I think it would be great if there were several robust, innovative, American rail-vehicle manufacturers that could bid competitively on all of these contracts and utilize the best in manufacturing R&D. There aren't. It would be great if we, as a country, helped establish this industry off the ground to, in turn, support high-quality transit in cities around the country. We don't. In Germany, for example, the regional commuter trains in nearly all cities are made by Siemens, and, given this scale, the design of the cars has been highly developed and standardized. Instead, we have each transit system in the US go out and design and procure its own novel rail car each time they need to replace part of the fleet, and we have to buy things from overseas companies (e.g., Kawasaki, Hyundai, CAF, Siemens, Bombardier) and accept the concerns that come with that.

MAYBE if we just removed the "American Made" MAGAshit requirement we could have Siemens cars.

Sorry while I get the whole standpoint, sometimes companies overseas just simply do better than we can.

Siemens has worked well and RELIABLY for the Blue Line....

The American assembly requirement is decades old. In fact, the Siemens Blue Line cars were purchased under those requirements.

The requirement to build them in state is new for to contract. People complain about the Chinese government subsides to help win the bid but are silent about our own indirect welfare. Without this restriction the contract would have cost much less and we probably would get better trains.

The “Made in America” requirement is irrelevant to this discussion. CRRC is going to be assembling train cars for other systems at their Springfield plant, and Siemens could have done the same thing CRRC did to get the Red/Orange contract. As it was, they didn’t bid.

What would the Chinese see?
1) 5 Guys in Bruins outfits pummeling a passenger
2) Subway gymnasts hopping over fare gates
3) Patrons urinating and pooping on the platforms
4) Messages of hate written on the subway walls
5) Teenage Troublemakers terrorizing passengers

What the Chinese won't see
1) MBTA managers riding the subway
2) Transit cops riding the subway
3) Trains on time
4) Trash free trains
5) Anyone enforcing the the no smoking laws or fare jumping laws..


Too bad the 25% tariff on Chinese goods wasn’t in effect when this contract was awarded.

So what are the alternatives of a Chinese company building the trains?

As the article says "There are no US-based companies in the passenger rail and transit car business."

So it's either the Chinese, or the Japanese, or some other foreign country.

You get an American manufacturer of non-passenger rail cars, to start manufacturing passenger rail cars.

Want to hazard a guess why Boeing no longer makes trolley cars?

Boeing never manufactured rail cars before their ill fated LRV. Meanwhile, there are manufacturers who make locomotives and freight cars. I guess the question of how much the ability to build an oil tank car rolls over to subway cars is out there, but it's not outside of the realm of possibility.

A certain American company now based in Boston had a subsidiary that builds freight locomotives, until they sold it off earlier this year: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GE_Transportation