California is a no-show – State officials cancel bilevel presentation at conference, send statement instead

January 11, 2017

Below is an abbreviated/highlights version of a TRAINS Newsline story. A link at the end of the story will take you to the full story.

By Steve Sweeney | January 11, 2017, TRAINS Newsline

WASHINGTON — “Ongoing negotiations” are what stopped California rail officials from presenting information on a long-stalled bilevel car order at a national transportation conference on Tuesday.

At the Transportation Research Board conference in Washington, California Department of Transportation’s Bruce Roberts was slated to speak about bilevel cars CalTrans ordered from Sumitomo Corp. of Americas. The contract is worth $551 million with a Sept. 30, 2017 deadline set for the first bilevel deliveries. To date, no cars have been built.

“At this time, final design of the [Next Generation Equipment Committee] compliant cars has not yet been completed and approved. The contract is behind schedule and negotiations are currently underway to address the delays,” Steven Keck, CalTrans’ interim chief for rail wrote. “At this time no further information can be presented.”


Despite CalTrans’ absence in Washington, research board panelists who helped develop or manage design work spoke about the bilevels. According to these experts, there have been 243 design changes, so far, on the bilevel cars. Each change may require months to process or as little as two weeks for urgent production needs. Bilevel designs were also the first produced by the all-volunteer Next Generation Equipment Committee. Designs now include locomotives, diesel multiple units, and single level passenger cars.

California’s transportation department became the lead agency for a coalition of states that want to run new passenger cars on Amtrak trains and ordered the next generation committee-designed bilevel cars from Sumitomo in 2012. The first prototype of that design failed a crucial safety test at Sumitomo contractor Nippon-Sharyo’s Rochelle, Ill., plant in September 2015. http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2015/09/04-nippon-story

Nippon has since had massive layoffs and has repeatedly declined to answer Trains News Wire questions about the order, though Roberts did speak with News Wire in May 2016 about an upcoming funding deadline. http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2016/05/10-nippon-sharyo

At stake are 130 bilevel cars slated for use in the Midwest and the $551 million put up by the Federal government from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for their purchase. Unless Congress steps in to change the law, the deadline for spending the stimulus funds is Sept. 30. After then the funds must be returned to the federal government.

 

Click here to read the complete story from TRAINS Magazine.

 

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