The MBTA has not received any new Red and Orange line cars since it halted shipments in June amid “technical and engineering issues,” interim general manager Jeff Gonneville told the agency’s board of directors Thursday.
This means the delivery schedule announced Thursday — 152 Orange Line cars arriving by December 2023 and 252 Red Line cars by September 2026 — won’t be possible. So far the MBTA has only received 78 Orange Line cars and 12 Red Line cars since 2018 from the company manufacturing them in Springfield, and some of those are not in service as the T waits on car paperwork, Gonneville said.
“They will not be able to meet this production schedule,” Gonneville said.
The new schedule is months behind the one previously shared with the board in September, which said Orange Line cars would be delivered in Summer 2023 and Red Line cars in Summer 2025.
The MBTA will be reevaluating its contract with the Chinese manufacturing company, CRRC, first hired to build the cars in 2014, Gonneville said, and will provide a more accurate delivery schedule next month. The company is supposed to deliver four Orange Line cars and four Red Line cars each month, Gonneville said. The last two cars arrived on June 14, said T spokesperson Joe Pesaturo, before the T suspended deliveries.
Gonneville said he expects car delivery to resume based on “progress that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks,” but didn’t provide a date.
“The T needs to really take a step back and take a fresh look at this contract and really begin evaluating different strategies that we can be employing and using to continue to ensure that the T gets safe and reliable cars both on the Orange Line and on the Red Line here as quickly as possible,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Globe reported on chronic problems plaguing the Springfield factory cited by former employees, including cars with missing parts being advanced along the assembly line without the correct paperwork, workers watching movies for months while waiting on parts to arrive as suppliers went unpaid, and a culture of fear and retaliation for raising concerns.
The members of the MBTA’s board of directors did not ask Gonneville any questions about the delivery delays at Thursday’s meeting.
The meeting was the first held during Governor Healey’s administration, but the change in governors was hardly noticeable. Healey’s secretary of transportation, Gina Fiandaca, was absent from the meeting, and three board members appointed by former governor Charlie Baker that Healey can replace were still there. The only sign of the new administration was the absence of former T General Manager Steve Poftak; in his place was Gonneville, also appointed by Baker.
Spokesperson for the governor Karissa Hand said Fiandaca will be sworn in on Monday. “Our administration is working quickly and diligently to build a strong team that will prioritize safety and reliability across the MBTA,” Hand said via e-mail.
The MBTA’s oldest Red and Orange line cars continue to deteriorate while the T waits for their replacements.
The 54-year-old Red Line cars were supposed to be retired in 1994. In April, a door on one of them malfunctioned, dragging a passenger to death. The 42-year-old Orange Line cars were supposed to be retired in 2006. In July, a side panel on one fell off, touching the third rail and creating a fire that sent passengers scrambling to evacuate.
The MBTA has been using only new Orange Line cars since reopening the Orange Line after a 30-day shutdown last year, but may put some old ones back in service as a “backup plan.” Recently, the MBTA has not been operating enough Orange Line trains to meet even its reduced schedule, meaning rush hour wait times for trains can stretch longer than 20 minutes, an analysis of MBTA data by public transportation advocacy group TransitMatters shows.