News & Reviews News Wire MBTA sidelines some Orange Line equipment over defect, decreasing service

MBTA sidelines some Orange Line equipment over defect, decreasing service

By Trains Staff | December 31, 2022

| Last updated on February 7, 2024

Power-cable issue is latest problem for troubled CRRC cars

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Subway train at station
One of the MBTA’s CRRC-built Orange Line trainsets. Power-cable issues have led to some of the cars being removed from service. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has removed some of its newest equipment from Orange Line service because of power-cable issues found on nine cars, leading to longer wait times for trains on the rapid-transit line, the Boston Globe reports.

Wait times between trains increased to 13 to 21 minutes during Friday’s morning rush hour, according to the advocacy group Transit Matters, with only six trains operating instead of the 10 needed to maintain the scheduled level of service.

Several hours after the Globe inquired about the service decrease — and after two days of social-media inquiries from the public — the MBTA issued a statement saying the agency had found a problem with a power cable on one car that may have led to electrical arcing with a nearby axle. Further inspection found problems on nine cars, leading to repair work including replacement of 11 axles on those nine cars. In a subsequent statement, the agency said it was operating eight Orange Line trainsets, two less than the number needed to maintain a full schedule, leading to headways of 12 to 14 minutes between trains.

The statement said riders will continue to experience headways of about 15 minutes between trains.

The new Orange Line equipment is being built by an affiliate of Chinese manufacturer CRRC at a plant in Springfield, Mass. It is part of an order for 152 cars for the Orange Line and 252 for the Red Line that was placed in 2014 and continues to be delayed. The Orange Line cars were originally to have been completed by January 2022, then by April 2023, and now are projected to be done by summer 2023 [see “CRRC order for new MBTA cars falls farther behind schedule,” Trains News Wire, Sept. 30, 2022].

The cars that have been delivered have faced operational issues, including wheelset issues that contributed to a 2021 derailment [see “MBTA returns first CRRC trainset to service ….,” News Wire, Aug. 23, 2021]; brake problems resulting from improperly installed bolts [see “More bolt issues found …,” News Wire, May 27, 2022]; and a “battery failure” — later revealed to be a battery explosion — on a car parked at the MBTA’s Wellington Yard [see “MBTA pulls newest cars from service …,” News Wire, June 22, 2022].

The MBTA’s failure to inform the public of the reduced equipment availability, meanwhile, recalls communications issues that led to heavy criticism of outgoing General Manager Steve Poftak and other officials by U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey at an October hearing [see “FTA has no plans to take over MBTA …,” News Wire, Oct. 17, 2022]. Chief among those was the agency’s failure to inform the public of additional work it undertook after a month-long shutdown of the Orange Line this summer for repairs; those additional repairs led to Orange Line travel times being slower after it reopened than before [see “Advocacy group says MBTA Orange Line service is slower …,” News Wire, Oct. 10, 2022].

8 thoughts on “MBTA sidelines some Orange Line equipment over defect, decreasing service

  1. This is what happens when you “have to” select the lowest bidder. E.g. Rohr Aircraft for BART.

  2. Yes Mr. Landey, buy Siemens or Alstom. Crap made in China under license ok, but not such as our rail equipment. They can sell junk to Putin.

  3. Maybe CRRC as the lowest bidder wasn’t the lowest responsible bidder, since it can’t meet contract timeliness and product continues to have defects.

    1. Siemens wasn’t a bidder. Amongst the other bidders: Bombardier, Hyundai-Rotem, CAF USA, and Kawasaki.

    2. I agree Mr. Landey, Siemens seems to be making the better quality cars, especially since on the Blue line, the Siemens cars are working way better than the CRRC cars. And honestly, seeing that Amtrak is seeking to replace its long distance fleet, I don’t expect Amtrak to order their new cars from Chinese car manufacturers at all, especially considering China’s current relationship with America.

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