China’s government-owned CRRC is fighting for more lucrative Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) contracts to keep its Springfield, Mass., plant humming as the Trump administration looks to ban federal dollars going to the mass transit company and state lawmakers want jobs to stay local.
The Chinese Railway Rolling Stock Corp. (CRRC) has $800 million in contracts now to build more than 400 Orange and Red line cars at its sprawling manufacturing facility — the only one of its kind in the U.S. — but CRRC is lobbying lawmakers for more work, Mass. state Rep. Angelo Puppolo of Springfield said.
“We have a very talented workforce in Springfield and that’s my priority,” said Puppolo, who added he told CRRC to focus on hiring here and less on bringing workers over on visas from China if they want his support.
“They can do better,” he added, “and potentially hire more people from western Massachusetts.”
CRRC also has contracts with transit systems in Los Angeles and Philadelphia to build passenger cars, a spokesman said. Most of the work is done at the Springfield plant that opened in 2017 and employs about 280 people.
But the Trump administration is moving to ban state-owned companies like CRRC from receiving any federal funds to build transit vehicles. A Senate version of the bill is being backed by the White House, according to multiple reports.
“It is critical that such prohibitions cover procurement of all rolling stock transit vehicles to ensure the Nation’s economic and national security and to prevent the use of Federal dollars to support foreign state-controlled enterprises,” the Office of Management and Budget stated in a letter published in September by Roll Call.
Mass. state Rep. Shawn Dooley, a Republican who is a vocal critic of the state doing business with the Chinese government-backed CRRC, said he’d heard the company was “furious” about not getting a recent commuter rail contract that went to South Korea’s Hyundai.
He said the idea of the company lobbying Massachusetts elected officials is deeply concerning to him.
“People love to talk about foreign election interference — we’re talking about foreign influence on elected officials on one of our critical infrastructure needs,” Dooley said.
CRRC spokesman Lydia Rivera said Saturday the company is “grateful for the support from the Springfield delegation.” She added the company does want to bring more jobs to the plant, but a ban on federal funds is a real threat.
“It’s unfair. All our competitors are foreign from Japan, South Korea and Canada,” she added.
She also said a Quincy, Mass., office is shared with the MBTA so engineers can work on the new cars. She said the $100 million Springfield plant has exceeded the number of hires required under a local tax incentive deal.
Puppolo also said CRRC representatives called concerns about Chinese “espionage” linked to the mass transit systems “a red herring.” The company has also been criticized for underbidding on contracts to drive out the competition.
MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in a statement, “There is an immediate demand for more capacity on the MBTA Commuter Rail system, and Hyundai-Rotem (which built the 75 newest bi-level coaches for the T) is able to deliver new coaches faster than another car maker. Other suppliers would have to go through a lengthy design review and testing process, adding two-to-three years to the delivery schedule.”
Pesaturo said the T will soon be taking bids for two more large train-car contracts: 100 more bi-level commuter rail cars — with options for another 100 — and 165 of the much larger new “Type 10” Green Line cars the T plans to roll out as a part of an overhaul of that line.
He added: “The MBTA looks forward to accepting proposals from all interested rail car makers as part of these upcoming open and competitive procurements.”