chicago subway

Lawmakers Warn Cities to Stop Contracting Chinese Companies To Build Transit Systems

Despite concerns about Chinese manufacturers having access to U.S. transportation data, cities continue to move ahead with plans to partner with state-owned companies.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are concerned about the continued partnerships between American cities and Chinese companies to build transit systems, including rail cars and buses.

Those anxieties were aired at a Thursday Senate Banking Committee hearing on the threats posed by state-owned and operated transportation services. Two Chinese companies in particular, the railcar manufacturer China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) and bus and electric battery manufacturer Build Your Dreams (BYD), were the focus of much criticism about the potential security threats to transportation system data.

“The potential for an adversarial state actor to monitor the movements of American citizens, hack personal or government-issued devices, and collect intelligence on our military is a major security concern,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said at the hearing, according to The Hill.

Last December, Cornyn was at the center of an effort to ban states or cities from using federal funds to buy passenger rail cars or buses from state-owned or controlled manufacturers. While the bill was signed into law as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, the law will not go into effect for two years, The Hill reported.

“Unfortunately, special interests were able to demand a two-year enforcement delay of some of this legislation’s critical components,” Cornyn said. “I am here today to ask for your help in ensuring this delay does not turn into a window the Chinese Communist Party and its state-controlled companies can further exploit.”

Cybersecurity and national security officials have expressed similar concerns about Huawei, TikTok and other Chinese companies, which are required by a Chinese law to participate in the country’s intelligence work and disclose sensitive data if asked.

However, many cities -- including Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia -- are moving ahead with plans to buy from CRRC, the world’s largest manufacturer of metro rail cars. New York’s transit authority said in 2018 that the company had won its bid to build new railcars, offering $50 million of its own money.

A similarly low bid allowed CRRC to win the contest to build railcars for Chicago’s transit system. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Chinese subsidies give CRRC and BYD an unfair advantage.

“CRRC and BYD are two in a long line of examples of how China cheats its way ... into being a global leader into industry after industry,” Brown said. “Congress still needs to fully assess the risk associated with data of our transportation system being exposed to foreign actors.”

The two-year delay is not in effect for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which is banned from accepting bids from CRRC to build its railcars.

 

For its part, CRRC has said that once the railcars are built and delivered to the transit agencies, the company does not have control over the transportation data. “CRRC is very dedicated and very supportive of the fact that there will be security measures, safety measures and transit agencies will want to be satisfied before they accept a car,” chief legal counsel Marina Popovic told The Hill last year.

Cities must be aware of the potential threats posed by Chinese technology and that the low-balling bids are not worth the security challenges, lawmakers said on Thursday.

“Allowing American trains and buses to become Trojan horses for these technologies on American soil is unacceptable,” Cornyn said.

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

Featured

  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    The Importance of Proactive Security Measures: 4 Stories of Regret

    We all want to believe that crime won’t happen to us. So, some business owners hope for the best and put proactive security measures on the back burner, because other things like growth, attracting new customers, and meeting deadlines all seem more pressing. Read Now

  • Securing the Flow of Operations

    The transportation industry is a complex and dynamic environment where efficient management of physical keys, vehicles and shared devices is critical to ensuring smooth operations, reducing costs and maintaining security. Every day, more transportation facilities are using modern electronic key and asset management systems to better secure, audit and manage the important assets that keep operations running smoothly. Read Now

  • Today's Enterprise

    Protecting servers and data has evolved rapidly over the past 15-plus years. Early on, concerns centered around the environmental conditions of where servers were housed within a building and the effects of humidity, temperature and air quality on their performance. This led to a better understanding of the need for a controlled environment to maximize equipment lifespan and capacity. It was also a driving force behind consolidating servers in a common space, i.e., the data center. Read Now

  • Study Proves It: Security Awareness Training Reduces Phishing Attacks

    Attackers are increasingly targeting human-based vulnerabilities to infiltrate organizations. Humans have direct access to insider systems and data – any threat actor can easily phish users, steal their credentials and secure keys to the kingdom without having to fight advanced cybersecurity defenses. Studies show social engineering attacks and human errors are behind 68% of all breaches.  Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

Webinars

New Products

  • ResponderLink

    ResponderLink

    Shooter Detection Systems (SDS), an Alarm.com company and a global leader in gunshot detection solutions, has introduced ResponderLink, a groundbreaking new 911 notification service for gunshot events. ResponderLink completes the circle from detection to 911 notification to first responder awareness, giving law enforcement enhanced situational intelligence they urgently need to save lives. Integrating SDS’s proven gunshot detection system with Noonlight’s SendPolice platform, ResponderLink is the first solution to automatically deliver real-time gunshot detection data to 911 call centers and first responders. When shots are detected, the 911 dispatching center, also known as the Public Safety Answering Point or PSAP, is contacted based on the gunfire location, enabling faster initiation of life-saving emergency protocols. 3

  • Compact IP Video Intercom

    Viking’s X-205 Series of intercoms provide HD IP video and two-way voice communication - all wrapped up in an attractive compact chassis. 3

  • FEP GameChanger

    FEP GameChanger

    Paige Datacom Solutions Introduces Important and Innovative Cabling Products GameChanger Cable, a proven and patented solution that significantly exceeds the reach of traditional category cable will now have a FEP/FEP construction. 3