Rep wants hearing on Orange Line car delay

A Republican state representative from Norfolk is calling for a Beacon Hill oversight hearing to investigate the MBTA's procurement of new Orange Line cars, calling several delays of the new fleet "cause for great concern."

MBTA Deputy General Manager Jeff Gonneville announced last week that the first new Orange Line trains would not be ready for service until this summer because more time was needed for software testing. It's the second delay this year for the new cars manufactured by Chinese firm CRRC, which were initially expected to enter service in the winter.

Rep. Shawn Dooley's office announced Monday that he submitted a letter on Thursday to Joint Committee on Transportation Co-chairs Sen. Joseph Boncore and Rep. William Straus requesting a legislative inquiry.

"There is simply too much at stake for the Commonwealth to allow the T to continue to kick its disastrous administration of the CRRC contract down the road," Dooley wrote in his letter. "I hope the Committee will consider conducting an oversight hearing on this matter sooner rather than later, so the T understands there is accountability for its actions and that any further delays by CRRC are unacceptable."

Boncore's office said Monday they had not yet received Dooley's request. Straus could not be reached for immediate comment.

The MBTA hired CRRC to build a full new fleet of 152 Orange Line cars, and the firm subcontracted Alstom to design a signal system.

Gonneville said at a March 25 Fiscal and Management Control Board meeting that the system is "complex," and because the MBTA expects one component to be "vital," they need updated software for it to function properly. The latest delay allows time for that modification to be fully tested, he said, and all trains should still be delivered by December 2021 as initially planned.

"As the Deputy General Manager reported last week, all of the cars will be delivered within the original production schedule," MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in a Monday evening email. "The MBTA will continue to be open and transparent about the process for putting the new cars into passenger service."

Dooley also indicated he has concerns that the delay may show the Chinese government is "tampering" with the vehicles for espionage purposes.

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