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China Trade War, Lost Business Could Shutter Springfield’s New Train Factory By 2024

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China Trade War, Lost Business Could Shutter Springfield’s New Train Factory By 2024

A new addition to Springfield, Massachusetts’ manufacturing economy could be wiped out in five years if it continues to miss lucrative transit contracts and Washington levies additional anti-China legislation. 

Executives from CRRC MA, the makers of the MBTA’s upcoming new Orange and Red Line fleet, told Springfield politicians the company’s $100M East Springfield rail car factory could close in 2024 if it loses contracts to make more subway and railroad transit cars.

Pending legislation in Washington, as part of President Donald Trump’s trade war on China, would ban the use of federal funding for rail cars made by CRRC MA, MassLive reports. The Chinese government owns CRRC MA's parent company.

“They could turn the lights off,” state Rep. Bud Williams (D-Springfield) told MassLive following a meeting with CRRC MA President Jia Bo. 

The transit car manufacturer last month lost out on a $279M MBTA commuter rail contract to build 80 passenger rail cars to South Korean company Hyundai Rotem, which had built a 75-car order for the agency six years ago. 

Federal lawmakers could add to CRRC’s troubles if they pass a bill that would prevent transit agencies from getting any federal funding to help pay for trains made at the Springfield factory. On top of the $843M contract CRRC MA has for new Red and Orange line cars for the MBTA, the company is also assembling cars for the Los Angeles Metro and Philadelphia SEPTA transit systems in Springfield. 

The federal legislation, which has bipartisan support, stems from fears of cyberthreats and the potential the Chinese government could install technology on the trains to spy on riders. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker indicated he is working with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) to protect the factory and its workers. CRRC MA employs 268 across the state and plans to hire an additional 44.