MBTA Orange Line Cars Pulled From Service: Report

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has taken all of its new CRRC (China Railway Rolling Stock Corp.) MA-built Orange Line rapid transit cars out of service to install replacement door bump stops after one door leaf opened on one car while its six-car trainset was in motion, according to a report by MASSLive. The trainset went into emergency braking automatically and stopped, according to the MBTA. No injuries were reported.

The cars are equipped with sliding pocket doors whose controls and motors are supplied by Wabtec subsidiary Vapor Stone Rail Systems, which has manufacturing plants in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Mexico, and design/development facilities in St.-Laurent, Quebec. Investigators determined that the bump stop that failed “did not perform as expected,” and all bump stops will be replaced with “a new heavy-duty design,” the report said. The cars are expected to return to service on Oct. 7. MBTA said it will incur no costs for the fix, which will be made to all cars in the order.

CRRC MA performs final assembly of the $2.43 million cars, the first six-car trainset of which entered revenue service on Aug. 14, at its plant in Springfield, Mass. According to MBTA, the initial trainset operated 7,000 miles during routine and qualification testing, and also completed a 40-hour reliability demonstration in which they operated in simulated revenue service. Following that, they were subjected to a 500-mile “burn-in test.”

In 2014, MBTA awarded CRRC MA a $566 million contract for 152 Orange Line cars and 252 Red Line cars, production of which is slated to begin later this year. In December 2016, the MBTA exercised a $277 million option for another 120 Red Line cars, production of which is expected to begin in June 2022. Carbodies are fabricated in China, then shipped to Springfield for final assembly. CRRC MA says 60% of the cars’ components and sub-assemblies are sourced in the U.S. CRRC MA employs 179 at its $95 million plant in East Springfield. Of those, 122 are unionized production workers.

According to MASSLive, “Massachusetts went without federal funding on the cars so that it could mandate that they be assembled in the state. The idea was to foster the industry of making railcars in Massachusetts.” Following the MBTA order, Los Angeles Metro, SEPTA, (Philadelphia) and CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) awarded contracts to CRRC for transit cars. In Boston, CRRC won bids over Bombardier, Kawasaki Rail Car and Hyundai Rotem, largely with pricing up to 30% below that of its competitors.

CRRC MA has been targeted by some legislators on Capitol Hill and by some within the domestic railway/railway supply industry as having an unfair advantage over competitors because it is a subsidiary of publicly traded CRRC Corp. Ltd., the world’s largest manufacturer of passenger rail rolling stock. In the U.S. CRRC is defined as a Chinese SOE (state-owned enterprise). CRRC MA has aggressively push back against these allegations.


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