The Chinese Subway Made its Way to the U.S

In 1863, Aisin Gioro Zaichun had just ascended the throne. In London, the world’s first subway system as long as 4.8-kilometer began its operation in the same year. More than one hundred years later (1965), the Beijing metro line 1, China’s first subway line, just began its construction.

the London underground constructed in 1863. Photo from Global Times

Though over 100 years later than western counterparts, China’s urban rail transit has undergone earth-shaking changes in past decades. Particularly, since 2009, new cities constructed subway every year. As of now, there are 27 metro cities in mainland China. And in another 15 cities, underground is under construction now.

These data show China’s leading position in subway field in the world. China ranks first in both subway coverage and mileage. Having satisfied domestic demand, Chinese metro embarked on a “road going abroad” and has obtained several larger orders from Australia, the United States and Brazil.

Good news keeps coming. Recently, the first subway cars tailored for Boston’s orange line which are designed and produced by CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd.(中车长春轨道客车股份有限公司) rolled off the production line. It is expected to arrive in the United States in December and it is the first domestic rail transport equipment landing on the U.S. market.

It’s not unusual for Chinese subways to go overseas, but this move still has special meaning.

The Boston metro was built in 1897 and Boston was one of the first cities in the world to build a subway, seven years earlier than the New York city. Boston has operated subways for over a hundred years and has very demanding requirements for rail transportation products. So, it means Chinese subway system has been recognized by the world’s high-end markets.

The Chinese subway has prepared for seven years to get into the United States. According to the news on CRRC website, the ex CNR has been tracking the bids of Boston Subway since 2010, and has fully studied Boston’s requirements in technology, standards, specifications and laws, so as to fully evaluate and avoid the business risks.

In 2014, China has come out of the back stage —— Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) initiated a bidding process for Boston subway cars.

Opportunities come to those who are prepared. CRRC stood out from many well-known manufacturers and won the bid for 567 million USD. On the afternoon of October 22, 2014, the MBTA officially approved a 284-carriage order contract with China for the orange and red lines of the Boston subway.

It is argued that the more important significance of winning the Boston project is that the order provides a gateway to the United States for CRRC. Since then, CRRC has established cooperation with several US cities:

  • On March 10, 2016, CTA obtained an order from Chicago of $1.3 billion for 846 subway cars.
  • In January 2017, the MBTA decided to purchase 134 more subway trains from CRRC for a total of nearly $ 270 million.
  • In April 2017, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and CRRC signed the $123 million deal for Metro Red and Purple Line trains.

Chairman of CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd. Wang Run once said in an interview:

In this process, the enterprise not only develop professional partners at home and abroad, but also cultivate numerous outstanding talents in fields like technology, business and quality, laying a solid foundation for subsequent project and cross-border operation.

This article originally appeared in Ifanr and was translated by Pandaily.