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Over 70 Workers Hired to Build CTA’s Next-Gen 7000-Series Cars on SE Side

Rendering of the new 7000-Series cars.

Today Chicago officials, the Chinese rolling stock company CRRC Sifang America, and the Chicago Federation of Labor announced the hiring of more than 70 employees at the $100 million factory that will assemble the CTA’s newest railcars, the 7000-series. The facility is set to become fully operational later this year. The first group of production workers will travel to China next week for special training.

“The creation of this state-of-the-art railcar facility is not only an investment in the CTA, but a vote of confidence in Chicago’s economy and our workforce,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “Our goal of having a world-class transportation system is one step closer with this critical investment on the Far Southeast Side.”

The city says the factory, located on 45 acres of land, will eventually create about 170 manufacturing, warehouse and professional jobs. It's been 55 years since rail cars were built within the city limits.

“We are excited to have hired the initial group of union production workers who will assemble the next generation of railcars for the Chicago Transit Authority,” CRRC Sifang America’s president Chengyong Liu said in a statement. “As we complete the new Chicago facility, our newly hired workers will be training in preparation to build the first ten prototypes of the new 7000 Series railcars to be delivered later this year.”

The CTA awarded the manufacturing contract to build up to 846 new 7000-series rail cars to CRRC’s U.S. subsidiary, CRRC Sifang America, in March 2016.  The first order of 400 rail cars will be assembled at the new facility and is slated to replace the CTA’s oldest railcars, which are more than 30 years old. The city says that once these new rail cars are put into service, the CTA will have one of the youngest fleets of any U.S. transit agency.

These new railcars will include AC-power propulsion for smoother, quieter rides; more security cameras inside and outside the vehicle; and GPS-triggered announcements and automatic passenger counting for improved service planning.

Rendering of the 7000-Series seat layout.
Rendering of the 7000-Series seat layout.
Rendering of the 7000-Series seat layout.

The seat layout of the new cars will be a compromise between the older, mostly forward-facing style still in place on some 'L' lines, and the configuration on the newer 5000-Series cars, which feature mostly aisle-facing benches. While the latter seating style provides more standing room on, many customers dislike it because most seated riders don't get to face forward and are more likely to rub elbows with other passengers, among other complaints.

CRRC Sifang America is working with unions such as the Chicago Federation of Labor, IBEW and SMART, to hire union members from nearby communities.  Additionally, the company has partnered with a number of Chicago community organizations such as Calumet Area Industrial Commission, Jobs to Move America, Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, and City Colleges of Chicago.

The factory will assemble the CTA’s base order of 400 rail cars for a total of $632 million or $1.58 million per car, with future options for an additional 446 rail cars. These 7000-Series vehicles are the first rail cars bought by CTA since the last orderof 5000-Series cars from the Canadian company Bombardier in 2006. The first 7000-Series prototypes are expected to be completed this year.

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