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US Rep. Richard Neal, citing Springfield CRRC jobs, says ban on buying Chinese rail cars 'misguided'

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SPRINGFIELD -- As the U.S.-vs.-China trade war escalated Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal said he'll work against a potential ban on transit agencies spending federal money on Chinese rail and transit cars -- like those CRRC MA assembles and finishes in Springfield.

The ban, different versions of which are before the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, is sure to come up in Washington in the coming months.

It's part of a ongoing trade tensions between the two economic superpowers. A set of new tariffs announced this summer by the Trump administration could raise the cost of components manufactured in China and used in Springfield by CRRC by 25 percent.

The Trump administration came outwith more tariffs on Tuesday, and China announced retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. imports.

CRRC, the world's largest rail car maker, established a $95 million factory in Springfield to build subway cars for the MBTA. It's also gotten contracts to build subway cars for Los Angeles and to build double-decked rail cars for Philadelphia's SEPTA. All of the assembly work will be done in Springfield.

The factory already has 120 employees and has plans to hire 20 more by the end of 2018 as it ramps up production.Neal, D-Springfield, said in an emailed statement that CRRC has the potential to serve transportation needs of cities across the country.

"The state-of-the-art manufacturing facility is helping to drive economic growth and development in the Pioneer Valley," Neal said. "That is why I am working closely with local, state and federal officials to oppose any legislative provision in Congress that would prevent CRRC-MA from reaching its full potential."

"In my opinion, the effort to ban the use of federal funds to purchase transit vehicles from foreign countries is misguided, and I will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to stop this proposal from going forward," Neal said.

In 2014, CRRC received a $566 million contract from the MBTA to build 152 Orange Line cars and 252 Red Line cars at the Page Boulevard site in Springfield. In December 2016, the state upped the order with another 120 new Red Line cars, with production set to begin in June 2022 at a cost of $277 million.

The first of the 152 new Orange Line cars are being tested on MBTA tracks right now.

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