News & Reviews News Wire SEPTA awards bid for Chinese bilevel commuter cars

SEPTA awards bid for Chinese bilevel commuter cars

By Wayne Laepple | March 24, 2017

| Last updated on April 12, 2024

Contract calls for 45 bilevel cars

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Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority logoPHILADELPHIA – The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has awarded a $185 million contract for 45 new double-deck commuter cars to CRRC MA Corp., a Chinese-owned company with a new plant in Springfield, Mass., at a board meeting on March 23. Delivery of the cars will begin in 2019.

The Chinese company underbid Bombardier, the other bidder, by $34 million. CRRC MA is a subsidiary of China Railway Rolling Stock Corp., the world’s largest builder of rail equipment. The new company has not built any equipment for the American market, but SEPTA officials note that it has orders for 404 cars for MBTA in Boston, and more equipment for Chicago and Los Angeles, which should allow time for any problems to be worked out.

The 45 double-deck cars provide seating for 130 passengers, as compared with the 105 seats in the single-level Silverliner V cars. This should reduce crowding on trains on SEPTA’s commuter lines, which have seen 52 percent growth since 2000. The new cars will be locomotive-hauled by new Siemens electric locomotives on order.

SEPTA also holds an option for 10 more cars for an additional $23.5 million.

10 thoughts on “SEPTA awards bid for Chinese bilevel commuter cars

  1. The old passenger car builders (Budd, Pullman, St. Louis Car, etc) didn’t go out of business because the railroads stopped buying passenger cars from them in favor of overseas competitors. They went out of business because the railroads stopped buying passenger cars period. Now that new transit agencies are starting up, and the older ones are shopping for new equipment, overseas builders which never saw their home markets collapse have stepped in to fill the gap.

    Should SEPTA buy their cars from CRRC? I don’t know, I know nothing about them besides what’s in the article. That said, I don’t see why I should automatically be offended by SEPTA buying equipment built in a US plant owned by a Chinese company, rather than a US plant owned by a Canadian company (Bombardier), a German company (Siemens) or a French company (Alstom).

    I wonder if people in other countries got upset when Electro-Motive and GE built assembly plants there. Or if [gasp] US-built locomotives get shipped there. The March 2017 Railpace has photo of NS hauling part of a fleet of units GE is building for export to Asia, and I wonder if Electro-Motive would still be around if not for their export business.

  2. Why would the Chinese bug SEPTA? We have more to learn from their railway operations, then they from sorry SEPTA.

    While Nippon Sharyo has run into trouble on the Amtrak order, they do have a track record of quality car construction.

  3. We will regret the federally imposed requirement to go with the “lowest bidder.” All this has done over the years has been to hollow out our own industrial base for construction of passenger, and now, freight cars; destroyed a skilled American workforce formerly employed at Budd, Pullman, ACF, and St. Louis Car.

    Now, with the incursion into our market by a foreign firm with no experience building North American subway or commuter cars, CRRC, this will only jeopardize the American workforce employed here by Siemens, Bombardier, and Alstom, as CRRC builds with PRC steel and our laborers just turn the screws on delivery from Shanghai. Apparently, nothing was learned from the consequences of prior lowest bid contracts from Hyundai Rotem that created serious safety issues on multiple commuter lines (SEPTA, MBTA, LA Metrolink); and Nippon Sharyo, who failed to complete the intercity bi-level order for Amtrak.

    So, what is Plan B? What if CRRC fails to meet the lowest bid contract and completion schedule; or, if serious quality construction/safety issues are identified? By pursuing the lowest bidder, devoid of experience, what will we do as the competitive marketplace is negated, and Philadelphia cannot purchase replacement cars, e.g., Bombardier?

  4. I’m surprised that SEPTA would go for bi-level commuter cars. All their regional routes are under catenary, some with very low catebary-to-car clearances. I remember standing in the old Market East station and watching the pantograph being almost pushed flat due to the low clearance of the cat wires (and this was with old Silverliner single-level cars).

  5. The law says American sourced, not built by an American company. Remember, Bombardier is Canadian based. The key to the law is where the actual parts come from and where the labor and assembly happens. Another issue, however, is whether the company can be used by the government to put competing businesses in other countries out of business by allowing losses.

  6. I highly doubt SEPTA put out a bid for “Chinese bilevel commuter cars”. They awarded the bid for bilevel commuter cars to a Chinese company.

  7. The irony of the “buy American” push and todays announcement of two sizable car building contracts going to the Chinese !!

  8. Interesting that those who regularly comment about such things have not picked up on the “Chinese built” aspect, particularly since there’s a second article about the same thing right below. Donald must have missed this: a great opportunity to use American-built, squandered. But you may be right Mr. Eaves. They could actually be giant antennae hacking computers all up and down the line and rebroadcasting them west. I went to school with an Arnold Eaves. Do you know anything about E Tenn?

  9. I don’t really mean to sound paranoid here, but will the US agencies buying these Chinese products check the electronics and computer components for bugs and hidden programs? The Chinese have amply proven that they are not above doing this. The the trite saying goes: “Just Asking.”

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