Springfield gets Chinese railcar plant

Updated: 2015-09-04 11:58

By Hezi Jiang in Springfield, Massachusetts(China Daily USA)

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A subsidiary of the world's largest railcar maker in China just broke ground on a new $95 million manufacturing facility in Springfield, Massachusetts.

"There are many firsts here in Massachusetts," said Yu Weiping, vice-president of CRRC Corporation, at the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday. "One is being home to America's first subway, and now this is a first for us in the US."

Yu was joined by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Liu Yi, commercial counselor from the Chinese Consulate General in New York.

"The Springfield train factory is the first-ever Chinese investment in the high-end railway transportation equipment industry in the US," said Liu. "After years of development, the Chinese railway equipment industry has become highly competitive internationally."

CRRC has been awarded a contract from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to design and manufacture 284 new Orange and Red Line subway cars for Boston's transit system.

The 220,000-square-foot assembly facility will begin construction in 2016 with completion scheduled for fall 2017, and the first cars are expected to be delivered in 2018.

Many of the Red and Orange line railcars are "old, slow, dirty, squeaky, and the paint is peeling off their rusty bodies," said Jin Xi, 22, a recent graduate of Boston University. "The Boston subway system is nice, but the cars are aging. In Beijing subways, the lighting is very bright, and the plastic chairs are shinny."

During the brutal snow storms of last winter, Governor Baker said he was told by Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack that a lot of the Red Line trains were the same cars that were running during the blizzard of 1978.

"The same cars," Baker repeated. "That was a really long time ago, folks."

The Red Line cars are on average 44 years old, and many Orange Line cars have been riding the rails for 32 years.

"Upgrading the aging Orange and Red Line fleets is a huge part of the progress we need to make to give our people here in the Commonwealth the 21st century transit system they deserve," said Baker.

That need is welcomed by CRRC. "We look forward to the success of this signature project, and working together with our partners to showcase the MBTA as a transit system boasting the best subway cars in the United States - built in the United States," said Yu.

The new facility will not only benefit Boston subway riders, it will also be an engine to help drive Springfield's economy. All production vehicles will be assembled and tested at the facility in Springfield, which will employ about 150 local Americans in manufacturing, engineering and administrative roles.

CRRC is expected to work with local companies in response to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's recent call for cooperation on production capacity.

"CRRC has rich experience in manufacturing, and Massachusetts has advantages in research and innovation," said Liu. "We hope CRRC can work closely with research institutes and technology companies in Massachusetts."

The Boston railcar project is only the start. CRRC is expected to expand its business across the US.

"In addition to this project we can further improve the transportation infrastructure here in the US," said Yu. "CRRC is a world leader in rail manufacturing, with successful projects in over 100 countries or regions including Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and we are ready to invest in a country with so much potential to have the best subways and high speed rails in the world."

Yu said CRRC was in talks with the New York City MTA.

"Today, Mayor Sarno is hosting this event for our subway cars. I hope next time, Governor Baker will be hosting a ceremony for the construction of cross-state high-speed trains," Yu said.


 Springfield gets Chinese railcar plant

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (fifth from left), Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno (fourth from left), Vice-President of CRRC Corp Yu Weiping (third from left), Chinese Commercial Counselor in New York Liu Yi (second from left) attend the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday to celebrate the start of construction of the CRRC North American Railcar Manufacturing Facility in Springfield, Massachusetts. Hezi Jiang / China Daily

(China Daily USA 09/04/2015 page1)