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SEPTA Looking To Buy Dozens Of New Rail Cars From Chinese Manufacturer

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- When the SEPTA Board meets Thursday, it is expected to approve a plan to buy new coaches for its regional rails to meet what the Authority calls "unprecedented ridership growth," up 52%, since 2000.

SEPTA staff recommends acquiring 45 bi-level coaches from CRRC, a subsidiary of a Chinese manufacturer, based on "technical rating and pricing." The $137.5 million bid from CRRC, the world's largest railcar builder, is $34-million under Bombardier of Canada and more than $47-million less than the bid from Hyundai Rotem, the South Korean company.

Hyundai Rotem has a manufacturing facility in South Philadelphia. It had the contract for those troubled Silverliner V cars that were yanked from service last summer because of defective parts.

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SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch says that discovery made the Authority press the pause button for this current procurement. The Request For Proposals was amended, and SEPTA will bring in EWI, formerly known as the Edison Welding Institute, to make sure the work is done right.

"We're going to have an outside consultant that will oversee the welding that's done because of the issues with the Silverliner V's," Busch said.

While the shells of the coaches will be manufactured in China, Busch says the bid does meet "buy America" requirements.

"At least 60% or more of the parts, labor and fabrication are done in the US," he said.

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CRRC is building an assembly plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, where it also has a contract to build subway cars for the MBTA in Boston.

Delivery of those multi-level coaches to SEPTA is expected to begin in the fall of 2019.

The Secretary Treasurer of Transport Workers Local 234, Joe Coccio, says SEPTA's decision, which he calls "un-American," will result in the elimination of 150 jobs at Hyundai Rotem's South Philly plant, sending that work overseas.

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