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.