WBUR

MBTA Board Pushes For Answers To Rail Car Delivery Delay

BOSTON — Already two years behind schedule, the Korean company contracted to build the MBTA’s new commuter rail cars promised Wednesday to tell the T within a month when the cars will finally be delivered.

At Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the board that oversees the MBTA, the CEO of Hyundai Rotem blamed the delay on U.S. regulations and strict specs for the rail cars.

Adding to the frustration, the MBTA has been complaining that the Korean company hasn’t been responsive to their concerns. The company was awarded the contract even though it had never built a rail car in the U.S. before.

At the meeting, Hyundai Rotem CEO Min-ho Lee was grilled by board member Janice Loux. She called the way T management handled the contract a few years ago “egregious.”

“Your company hired consultants related to the COO of this agency, whose father was a consultant formerly for this agency,” Loux said. “You came in and you hired people to politically push this contract through, and you had a general manager at the time who agreed with you.”

We contacted Dan Grabauskas, the MBTA’s general manager at that time the contract was negotiated, but he didn’t want to talk about the contract for the commuter rail cars.

Richard Leary, the former MBTA chief operating officer, whose father was a consultant for Hyundai Rotem, recused himself from any decisions involving the commuter rail contract at the time.

Addressing Lee, Loux criticized the request for proposals.

“It was a sloppy RFP that forced the board into a vote because of the political money that you spent to get yourself there,” Loux said. “So if you want to continue to have a reputation in this country, you fix this. You fix this, or we will fire you.”

Other board members said Loux expressed their feelings.

Speaking through an interpreter, Lee defended his company.

“One thing that I would like to emphasize at this time is that Rotem company has always been a transparent company,” Lee said. “We have not engaged in any inappropriate behavior, in the past or now.”

Lee assured the board that once delivered, the cars will last for 30 years. Then, in English, he added, ”That’s very important.”

Lee promised to provide the T with a timeline for completion of the cars within a month.

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  • J__o__h__n

    Behind schedule.  Unresponsive.  The MBTA couldn’t have picked a better vendor to match their own service.  At least the price of the cars isn’t increasing. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/6CZ3ZSG65GQGV6LBSQYCRBPWXA Matthew

      the company building the cars was 18 months late delivering the silverliner 5 cars for septa in phila and the plant is literaly in there back yard folks . you can blame the damn goverment for the delay . seems about 4 years ago there was a shortage for the required metal needed for the rail cars due to it being needed for military tanks for the army . now that theres no longer a war going on , until dictator obama says otherwise , they can build them . there have been language and labor problems at the plant in south phila . believe me , septa has had major issues with the rail cars when they first recieved them . this was the first time they where ever built in this country . period . most of the bugs have been worked out . be patient . they are worth the wait .  just make sure the mbta does extensive testing before they put any in service

      • YouGetWhatYouPayFor

        The bugs have not been worked out. I work in the plant. They (hyundai) have problems with allowing anyone who is not Korean access necessary materials to get the cars done. They sent over another flock of non English speaking Korean engineers to show how the trains are put together. Their blueprints are horrible. But with all that we (the americans) are still able to understand both the bad prints and the language barrier enough to get done the work that we are assigned. We have been working on these cars for only 3 months so there is a ton of work to get done on them but there is still days that we come in with no material to work with or no assignment from the lack of management. At the end of the day you cant expect a workforce getting paid $14 an hour with no overtime or promotion expectations to work like were getting paid what we’re worth. You get what you pay for. Pay experienced train builders like illegal immigrants and your gonna get a bunch of experienced clock milkers. These trains are not two years behind because of the workers. They are behind because of cheap, untrusting, demoralizing management. This isnt the first time they tried to throw us under the bus either. They said that the SEPTA contract was behind because of inexperienced workers. At that point we had been working on the trains for over a year. If your workers are still inexperienced at doing the same thing for over a year its either that your not managing them correctly or your not paying them enough. Unless we get more money we are going to continue to work like unskilled workers. We will not work like journeyman at apprentice rates. Oh yea and for the duration of the MBTA contract all workers know that we will only be getting $0.50 raises for the next 2 years. That dosent even come close to the inflation rate

  • Joe Albiani

    Instead of using an American company they pay a Korean company. I can’t believe that there is any good reason especially when they are over 2 YEARS behind schedule. How exasperating.

    • peterrecore

      Joe, do you know of any American companies that can build passenger rail cars?  It is hard to use a company that doesn’t exist.

      • Railcar Eng

        “we” use to.  “We” built single level and double level coaches as well as single  single and double level self propelled FRA certified DMUs for intermixed use with freight.  Its a shame no one wanted US produced equipment.  “WE” = Colorado Railcar.

    • Vincent Biondi

      Now you know why there is so much unempolyment in the US.  Is it possible that there is no company that can build rail cars in America?  What about Caterpillar, which took over EMD ( Electro-Motive )?  What about Obama’s “Buy American” policy? Even though the cars are built outside of Philadelphia, it is still a foreign company.  Wake up America, start manufacturing again instead of giving all the work to Asia and Asian Companies.

  • Yankeemariner

    There was a time when the US built its own rail cars. The industry shut down after building the last of the cars for Amtrak’s western routes. Another result of our free-for-all economy run only for stock holders with no thought of long-term national needs.

  • Biker

    There are precisely zero U.S. companies that are currently capable of producing passenger rail cars of this type, or any type really.  It would be great if someone developed this capability.  But until that happens, one has to understand the restrictions that transit authorities operate under when trying to procure new equipment, especially if federal funding is involved.  If a company is technically qualified and offers an attractive price, you quickly run out of legitimate reasons to reject them.  It’s not like you can wander down the street to your local rail car builder and pick your favorite car off the shelf.

    • Made in USA

      This is not a true statement. Kawasaki can and has manufactured this type of car as well as other types in Lincoln Nebrsaka and Yonkers NY. Kawasaki has been producing cars in the US for 25 years.

  • Railcar Eng

    “we” use to.  “We” built single level and double level coaches as well as single  single and double level self propelled FRA certified DMUs for intermixed use with freight.  Its a shame no one wanted US produced equipment.  “WE” = Colorado Railcar.

  • Hyundai Rotem Employee

    The bugs have not been worked out. I work in the plant. They (hyundai) have problems with allowing anyone who is not Korean access necessary materials to get the cars done. They sent over another flock of non English speaking Korean engineers to show how the trains are put together. Their blueprints are horrible. But with all that we (the americans) are still able to understand both the bad prints and the language barrier enough to get done the work that we are assigned. We have been working on these cars for only 3 months so there is a ton of work to get done on them but there is still days that we come in with no material to work with or no assignment from the lack of management. At the end of the day you cant expect a workforce getting paid $14 an hour with no overtime or promotion expectations to work like were getting paid what we’re worth. You get what you pay for. Pay experienced train builders like illegal immigrants and your gonna get a bunch of experienced clock milkers. These trains are not two years behind because of the workers. They are behind because of cheap, untrusting, demoralizing management. This isnt the first time they tried to throw us under the bus either. They said that the SEPTA contract was behind because of inexperienced workers. At that point we had been working on the trains for over a year. If your workers are still inexperienced at doing the same thing for over a year its either that your not managing them correctly or your not paying them enough. Unless we get more money we are going to continue to work like unskilled workers. We will not work like journeyman at apprentice rates. Oh yea and for the duration of the MBTA contract all workers know that we will only be getting $0.50 raises for the next 2 years. That dosent even come close to the inflation rate

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