Posts Tagged ‘California Department of Transportation’

Water Problem Sidelines Venture Cars

June 4, 2021

An issue with the water supplies in the restrooms has delayed use by Amtrak of new Siemens Venture passenger cars in corridor service in the Midwest and California.

The problem was found during routine testing last November, a California Department of Transportation official said.

A Siemens spokeswoman said the company has found a solution to the problem but further testing is needed before the cars can be delivered.

The spokeswoman said the fix will enable the cars to meet water-quality standards of the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency.

Caltrans is the lead agency overseeing the $386 million, 137-car order for single-level cars that was awarded to Siemens in 2017.

California will receive 49 of those cars while Midwest corridor trains will use 88 cars.

Contractor Sumitomo Corporation has been paid $28 million for its work on the cars, but the Caltrans spokesman said Sumitomo won’t be paid for the cars themselves until the water issue has been resolved.

California officials had hoped to put the cars into revenue service this fall but now the timeline for their debut is unclear.

Four Venture cars have already been delivered to Amtrak in Chicago for testing on the Chicago-Detroit corridor and on the Chicago-Carbondale, Illinois, corridor.

The cars are based on the design Siemens used to build passenger cars for Florida’s Brightline intercity rail passenger service where they began revenue service in December 2017.

New Rail Cars Arrive for Testing

September 2, 2020

Four new passenger cars built by Siemens have been delivered to Amtrak’s Chicago service facility for testing.

The cars, which were ordered by the Illinois Department of Transportation, are to be used on state-supported Midwest corridor trains.

Known as Venture cars, the single-level cars are built to a design pattern that Siemens used to construct coaches for Florida’s Brightline intercity service.

IDOT and its partner departments of transportation have ordered 88 of the Venture cars in coach, coach-business and coach-café configurations.

The cars are expected to be delivered through 2023. They are being built in Sacramento, California, where Siemens is also building an order of ALC-42 Chargers for Amtrak that will pull long-distance trains once they enter revenue service.

The Siemens passenger cars have a long and convoluted history that dates to 2012 when IDOT ordered  bi-level cars from Japanese manufacturer Sumitomo, which subcontracted construction of the cars to Nippon Sharyo, which had a manufacturing plant in Rochelle, Illinois.

However, a prototype car failed a crash safety test in 2015.

IDOT ultimately switched the contract to Siemens, which agreed to build single-level cars for the transportation agency over a 24- to 34-month period.

In addition to the cars being built for IDOT, Siemens is building 49 single-level cars for the California Department of Transportation for use on corridor trains in that state.

Once the new passenger cars enter service on Midwest corridor routes serving Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan, it will mean that the trains will have Siemens locomotives (SC-44 Chargers) and Siemens passengers.

Midwest trains currently use a combination of Horizon Fleet and Amfleet cars.

Virgin Gets Extension on Vegas Route Bond Sale

July 3, 2020

The Virgin Trains USA has received a five month extension for its efforts to sell bonds to finance development of a route to Las Vegas.

Virgin subsidiary Desert Xpress Enterprises is seeking to sell $3.25 billion in private activity bonds to help fund the high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California.

The Bond Buyer reported that the California Infrastructure and Economic Bank approved the extension, which Desert Xpress sought because of market turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virgin used similar financing to pay for the extension of its Brightline service to Orlando, which is now under construction.

In a related development, the California Department of Transportation will allow Virgin to build on state-owned right-of-way along Interstate 15 east of Apple Valle near Victorville.

Approximately 135 miles of the planned 170-mile high speed route will be in California.

In a news release, Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin called the agreement “a major milestone.

Cleaner Chargers Touted on Earth Day in California

April 25, 2019

Amtrak celebrated Earth Day this week by touting the inauguration of 14 new Siemens Charger locomotives in Pacific Surfliner Service.

The locomotives are not actually new, having been shown off at a media event last October.

Amtrak, the California Department of Transportation, and the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency said that Chargers now pull most of the 24 daily Pacific Surfliner trains.

The locomotives were built in Sacramento, California, and have been certified as meeting the Tier IV emissions standards of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Officials have said the Charges are 90 percent cleaner than the 20-year-old locomotives that they replaced.

Caltrans funded the locomotives with $100 million in state, federal and local funds.

The North Country Transit District plans to buy Chargers for use on its Coaster trains between Oceanside and San Diego.

California Shows Off New Chargers

October 10, 2018

California officials and Amtrak recently showed off the livery to be used on the 14 new Charger locomotives that are being assigned to Pacific Surfliner service.

The locomotives and their livery were introduced at a ceremony at Los Angeles Union Station that was sponsored by the California Department of Transportation, Amtrak and the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency.

The units were built by Siemens in Sacramento, California, and have received the Tier IV emissions certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, making the Charger one of the cleanest diesel-electric passenger locomotives in operation.

Caltrans funded the locomotives with $100 million in state, federal and local funds. The Chargers will replace Amtrak-owned locomotives that are nearly 20 years old.

Canceled Car Contract Not Good News for Rochelle

November 16, 2017

The news that Nippon Sharyo has lost the contract to build new passenger cars for Midwest and California corridor trains operated by Amtrak is not good news for  Rochelle, Illinois.

Nippon Sharyo established a factory in the northern Illinois city that does not see any scheduled passenger trains to build the bi-level cars.

But a prototype car built at the plant failed to pass safety tests and many employees at the Rochelle plant had already been laid off before the California Department of Transportation announced that Siemens will instead complete the cars at a factory in Sacramento, California.

The contract with Nippon Sharyo had been announced in November 2012 by former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and was valued at $550 million.

The Illinois Department of Transportation had banded together with its California counterpart to oversee the car orders, which also involves the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri.

The original contract had called for 130 passenger rail cars of which California agreed to buy 42. The remaining 88 cars were earmarked for Amtrak’s Midwest corridor routes.

Some saw the new cars as a first-step toward creating 125-mph passenger service in the Midwest.

With more than $10 million in state and local financial incentives, Nippon Sharyo opened a new U.S. headquarters and the $35 million passenger rail car facility in Rochelle in July 2012.

As recently as 2015, the Rochelle plant employed 694. Last month employment there was 54.

Illinois officials had said when announcing the contract to build cars in Rochelle that Nippon Sharyo had agreed to create 250 jobs and retain 15 at its office in Arlington Heights. A report in the Chicago Tribune said it is unclear if this agreement has changed.

Nippon Sharyo said it “will continue its business operations going forward with a reduced number of employees to meet the needs of existing customers and contractual responsibilities.”

Caltrans recently said it has awarded a $352 million contract to Sumitomo Corporation of Americas and Siemens to complete the car order that Nippon Sharyo once had.

The new contract calls for 137 single-level rail cars of which 88 will be used in the Midwest.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association says that single-level cars are safer and better able to protect passengers in the event of a crash.

Siemens to Complete Passenger Car Order

November 10, 2017

Siemens will replace Nippon Sharyo as the builder of new passenger cars for the departments of transportation of California and Illinois, the agencies have confirmed.

Caltrans said in a news release that it has amended its $371 million contract for new passenger cars so that Siemen and Sumitomo Corporation of American will complete the long delayed multi-state order.

Under the new contract, the order will include 137 single-level passenger railcars – 49 to Caltrans and 88 to IDOT.

The original contract called for bi-level cars with Sumitomo subcontracting construction of the cars to Nippon Sharyo. The revision designates Siemens as a subcontractor.

The cars are to be delivered in 24 to 34 months after production begins next year.

The original cars were being built in Rochelle, Illinois. A prototype car was completed, but failed to pass federal crashworthy tests.

The single-level cars will be constructed at a Siemens plant in Sacramento, California. All components will come from U.S.-based suppliers.

California plans to use the new passenger cars on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor trains. The equipment will also be used on Midwest corridor trains.

Siemens Cars to Replace Sharyo Cars

September 2, 2017

Single-level passenger cars built by Siemens will replace bi-level coaches that were to have been built by Nippon Sharyo.

The departments of transportation of California and some Midwest states had ordered 130 bi-level cars from Sharyo that were to be built in Rochelle, Illinois.

However, design problems and an inability of a prototype to pass federal rigidity tests delayed the order.

Now the California Department of Transportation, which is leading procurement of the cars, has said it will substitute 130 Siemens cars for the Sharyo order.

The number of seats will be reduced, but state officials said the time frame for delivering the cars will be shortened from five years to 24 to 34 months.

In the Midwest, the Siemens cars are expected to replace Horizon equipment.