Update on the New Orange Line Trains

In 1980, the first Hawker Siddeley PA-3 stated service on the Orange Line, finally ending the era of the Pullmans on subway lines. Those cars then served the MBTA for 30 years, but now it is time to say goodbye to them. New cars are coming to replace them.

CNR, a Chinese, state-owned corporation has a 566.6 million dollar contract for 152 new cars. CRRC will build the cars, as they have inherited the contract from CNR after a merger. These are the first new trains since the Washington Elevated was torn down and are of the 01400 series. They are being built at a Westinghouse factory converted to locomotive production, in Springfield.

According to the MBTA website, this factory will also produce cars for the Red Line. 252 new cars have been ordered in the contract, totaling to a $1 billion purchase along with massive capital spending. Essentially, the Red and Orange Lines are being rebuilt from the bottom up.

The general manager of the MBTA, Steve Poftak, said these things in a Boston Herald report about the cars: “These new cars are expected to increase capacity 40% from what it is today.” To give a measure of scale, daily ridership is 201,000 today, and expected to become 281,500 with the new cars. Poftak continued, saying “this also reduces wait time for the Orange Line from 6 minutes to 4 and 1/2 minutes,” which is a 25% improvement. “Customers are going to start seeing these trains more and more, and they’re going to provide more reliable and more comfortable commutes.”

Photo of the Orange Line Trains. Photo taken by Gabriel Fesehaie.

Also, according to the MBTA website, the entire Orange Line signal system is being rebuilt, to convert it from analog to digital. This will allow for faster communication between signals and signalmen, leading to faster services. The rails on the Orange Line are also currently being replaced in order to tolerate faster, longer, and heavier trains And it is also one of the main reasons we haven’t seen a faster deployment of trains. Besides that, Wellington Yard is also being upgraded. It will receive new yard tracks, more 3rd rail, a retrofitted testing track, and a retrofitted maintenance facility, the best on the T with Cabot Yard. There will be new train storage areas to accommodate the fleet, and an eco-friendly car wash to handle more trains at once. The maintenance areas will be expanded to take in more trains, and new diagnostic equipment to perform better maintenance.

What’s in the new cars? The new Orange Line cars have a digital display, that shows you what is the next station, which is also a feature on the MTA and WMATA. The seats are also made of plastic, to make them “easier to clean and more hygienic.” There are also more handrails, which will help hold the legendary Boston commuter rush. New AC and heating systems also feature in this new car, a sure bet for many people braving New England summers and winters. There are also better communication systems, including audio door closing warnings and station notifications. When it comes to accessibility, there are new door open/door close warnings of both the audio and visual variete. 

The new cars are rolling out between now and 2023, and with a fleet size of 152, they will soon become commonplace. In the meantime, begin saying your goodbyes to the PA-3’s.

Alongside the new Orange Line trains, the Oak Grove Station, in Malden, as a whole is getting a revamp all through 2021. A new bus shelter is being built at the entrance, the main crossing is going to be safer with a flashing light beacon, as many citizens have complained about having close calls in that area. With the replacements in the trains, the station is going through a similar process.

Further Reading:
“This website lets you track down — and hop on — the new Orange Line cars” by Steve Annear

“MBTA rolls out new Orange Line train cars” by Stefan Geller

Orange Line Improvement Program by the MBTA

Orange Line (MBTA) by Rolling Stock on Wikipedia

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