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.