A railcar and locomotive manufacturer controlled by China’sgovernment has emerged as the top bidder for a $566.6 million contract tosupply the MBTA with new cars for the Red and Orange lines.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation board ofdirectors is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the contract for CNR MACorporation, which is a venture of China CNR Corporation Limited and CNRChangchun Railway Vehicles Co., according to the board’s agenda.
The contract for 284 subway cars will include theconstruction of an assembly plant in Springfield, according to a person withknowledge of the contract. The MBTA said last year it expected to begindelivering Orange Line cars in the winter of 2018, and the Red Line cars in thefall of 2019.
Governor Deval Patrick is scheduled to make an announcementabout the MBTA’s new cars Tuesday in Springfield, according to his publicschedule; he could not be reached for comment Monday night.
The possible deal comes amid concerns about the company’slinks to the Chinese government, which has been criticized for human rightsabuses. China CNR is a state-owned entity in China.
State Representative Byron Rushing, who represents the SouthEnd, said he asked state transportation officials on Monday what steps had beentaken to vet the Chinese company, but that he had not yet received a response.
“We should vet any company we are doing business with fromaround the world on their human rights record,” Rushing said in an interview.“And this is China. There are a lot of people who have questioned the humanrights record of the Chinese.”
Rushing said there is precedent for the state to refuse to dobusiness with countries that have troubling records on human rights, includingSouth Africa in the apartheid era and, more recently, Myanmar.
But Patrick, in remarks to reporters outside an event in Roxbury Monday, insisted that the bidders onthe Red and Orange line contract have been “thoroughly vetted,” and that theprocess had been “transparent and rigorous and competitive.”
Patrick said he had met with representatives of thecontractor in Hong Kong. Patrick noted that, under the terms of any contract,the new coaches would not be assembled in China.
“A condition of the deal is that the coaches be assembledright here in Massachusetts,” Patrick said.
Charlie Baker, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, said hewas glad the contract for the new subway cars would require assembly to takeplace in Massachusetts.
If elected, Baker said he would make sure Massachusettsbusinesses that seek state contracts for such work get credit for employingpeople in the Commonwealth.
The Democratic candidate, Attorney General Martha Coakley,could not be reached for comment Monday night.
At Wednesday’s MDOT board meeting, the seven-member panel isscheduled to discuss and either approve or deny the contract with CNR,according to the publicly available agenda posted on the agency’s website.
MBTA and Department of Transportation officials would notcomment Monday night on the contract or the process.
Patrick first pledged to replace many of the aging cars inthe Red and Orange line fleets a year ago, after the Legislature passed a lawthat raised taxes to provide $800 million annually to the state’stransportation systems.
Last year, the MBTA issued requests for proposals to replacethe Red Line’s 45-year-old cars and the Orange Line’s 33-year-oldcars, aging equipment that has caused delays and required constant upkeepfor years.
In its request, the agency asked for at least 226 cars,including 152 to replace the entire Orange Line fleet. The request alsoincluded 74 Red Line cars, which is about one-third of the fleet.
MBTA officials did not release the names of the otherbidders, citing the confidentiality of the bidding process.
But earlier this spring, CNR Changchun Railway announced itsintentions to assemble the cars in Springfield if awarded the deal, accordingto local media reports.
Hyundai Rotem, the South Korean company that in 2008 won a$190 million contract to supply the T with 75 new commuter rail cars, alsoidentified itself as a bidder on the Red and Orange line contract, byannouncing its own proposal to build a plant in Springfield, which was alsoreported by the local media.
Hyundai Rotem has been criticized for delivering the commuterrail cars behind schedule and later, for claims that the delivered trains werefaulty and required fixes.