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New Red, Orange Line trains could be delayed, again, by more than a year, MBTA says

New Orange Line cars sat on the production floor of the Springfield factory in 2018.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

The long wait for final delivery of new subway cars for the MBTA Red and Orange lines could increase by several months due to another in a series of delays by the Chinese manufacturer, officials said Thursday.

Orange Line cars that were expected at the beginning of this year may not be available until next summer, and Red Line cars due next fall could be delayed until summer 2025, officials told the T’s board of directors.

The possible setback comes nearly two years after the company said production was delayed until 2024.

But the new dates are not set in stone, and state officials will work to pressure the manufacturer, CRRC, to speed up its work, Secretary of Transportation Jamey Tesler told the board.


“I think it’s important to make sure that the schedule that’s presented is what they are telling us,” Tesler said during the teleconferenced meeting. “There’s a lot to be determined if they can achieve that, given past performance. But most importantly, we have not accepted that. … We need to continue to use everything available to us … to ensure that we can expedite the delivery of these cars.”

If realized, the new delays would put delivery of Red Line cars nearly two years behind schedule, and the final Orange Line train would arrive a year and a half late, officials said during the board’s monthly meeting.

In 2014, the state entered into a $1 billion contract with Chinese manufacturer CRRC to build new cars to replace the aging Red and Orange line fleets by 2023, according to the transit agency’s project website.

CRRC has said that the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed work in both China and the company’s local production facility in Springfield, Jeffrey Gonneville, deputy general manager for the T, told the board. The Springfield factory was shut down for weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, the Globe previously reported.


CRRC has also said it is struggling with employee retention and an excess of open positions, Gonneville said, and work has been slowed when T inspectors found quality issues in new cars that CRRC had to address.

The T’s contract with CRRC fines the manufacturer $500 per day for each delayed vehicle, and the T plans to enforce the penalty, Gonneville said.

Steve Poftak, general manager of the T, said it is working closely with CRRC at all levels to get the train cars produced quickly.

“We are deeply engaged at the factory level, and also at the executive and at the management level, in trying to move this forward,” he said. “We all may have divergent opinions on certain topics, but I think we all agree: we need these cars. We absolutely need to get these cars here.”

In October 2020, Gonneville said the new Orange Line cars would be fully in place by summer 2023, 15 months later than initially expected, and new Red Line cars would be fully online in winter 2024, a year behind schedule.

Gonneville said Thursday that 78 new Orange Line cars have been delivered to the MBTA’s Wellington car house, and 12 new Red Line cars have been delivered to the T’s Cabot car house.

The “car shells,” or exterior structures, of all 152 Orange Line cars ordered by the T have been completed, including the 78 that have been delivered. Another 40 are in the production line in Springfield, 28 are sitting outside in Springfield awaiting production , and six are in transit from China, Gonneville said.


The car shells of 32 Red Line cars have been produced, including the 12 that have been delivered. Six are on the production line in Springfield, 14 are stored, and another 48 shells for the 252 cars in the order are being produced in China, he said.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.