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The Boston Globe



For MBTA, canceling contract for new railcars should be last resort

Hyundai Rotem, the sluggish South Korean railcar builder, must feel it has the MBTA and its riders over a barrel. Sure, the company lags far behind its schedule for providing 75 badly needed double-decker coaches. Sure, the four test cars it finally did provide in 2012, more than two years late, have been rife with faulty workmanship. Sure, the original $190 million contract brought suspicion on the MBTA, after it became clear the company had hired a senior T official’s father to help win a contract in Philadelphia. But what’s the MBTA going to do about it now? Cancel the whole contract and start all over again?

That’s just what the T has threatened to do in a letter to Hyundai Rotem last month, but it’s unclear how realistic a threat that is. Canceling the contract outright should be the last resort. The T has declined to comment on what its Plan B is, or, indeed, if it even has one. According to public-transportation analysts, it can easily take five years between the day a contract is put out to bid and when the new coaches start carrying passengers. Five years? The desperate need for more reliable equipment — now — is one of the reasons the questionable Hyundai deal was rammed through so quickly in the first place. That was in 2008.

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