Steve Poftak says the third set of new Orange Line trains is scheduled to enter service “within the next month.”
However, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rest of the fleet — as well as the 252 new Red Line cars that the MBTA has on order — may arrive behind schedule.
“I’m disappointed to announce that we are facing some delays in the production and delivery of the Red and Orange cars,” Poftak said Monday afternoon during a meeting of the T’s Fiscal Management and Control Board.
The MBTA had planned to have all 152 new Orange Line cars in service by the end of 2021. And the entire full Red Line fleet was supposed to be humming along the tracks by September 2023.
With only two of the upgraded six-car Orange Line trains currently in service, the MBTA had already run into some production delays with CRRC, the Chinese company contracted to build both fleets, before the coronavirus hit. The first Red Line cars were slated to debut this spring, but summer began Saturday and none have hit the tracks so far.
Poftak said Monday that factory closures in both China and Springfield due to the coronavirus had contributed to the setbacks.
“We’ve been facing schedule pressure with the delivery of these vehicles, and COVID-19 has played a factor in some of these delays,” he said.
Poftak said that the MBTA is working with CRRC to come up with a “recovery schedule,” but declined to say what the exact impact would be on the delivery timeline. He said that COVID-19 had made the process “challenging.”
“We’re continuing to work with them on not only making sure the factory in Springfield gets fully mobilized, but also understanding what the impacts have been and then coming up with the recovery schedule,” Poftak said.
Given the circumstances, FMCB Chair Joseph Aiello told Poftak that the delays were understandable.
“There’s not a project I’m working on anywhere in the world where cross-border supply chains have not broken down,” he said.
Since debuting last year, the first two new Orange Line trains have pulled in and out of service to address an array of technical issues, as well as a licking incident in March. But as of Monday afternoon, Poftak that they were both up and running.
“I rode one last Friday,” he said. “We’re eager to get more of them in service.”