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Siemens to build Midwest's new high-speed passenger cars
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Siemens to build Midwest's new high-speed passenger cars

Siemens will build 137 new, single-level passenger cars for California and some of the Midwest’s state-supported routes, replacing a bi-level design that failed federally-mandated crash tests, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) announced on November 8.

Caltrans is the lead agency on the $371 million. multi-state order that includes four MIPRC states – Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin, represented by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). Eighty-eight cars will come to the Midwest while 49 will go to Caltrans.

The cars' appearances will roughly resemble the unit trainsets Siemens built for the Brightline service, about to launch in Florida (as shown in the photo), but they will be individual cars -- not articulated -- and will, of course, wear a different paint scheme. According to Caltrans, the cars will feature spacious seats with power outlets, WiFi, large windows, bike racks, overhead luggage storage, work tables, state-of-the-art bathrooms and full ADA accessibility.

This order replaces a $551 million order for 130 bi-level cars from Sumitomo Corporation of Americas (Sumitomo), placed in 2012. According to a report in Trains magazine, “the first prototype of that design failed a crucial safety test at Sumitomo contractor Nippon Sharyo’s Rochelle, Ill., plant in September 2015. A prototype shell buckled under the compression of the required 800,000-pound test. Nippon-Sharyo never publicly disclosed the cause of the failure.”

Under the new order, Siemens replaces Nippon Sharyo as Sumitomo’s subcontractor.

MIPRC Chair Beth McCluskey, who is director of the Office of Intermodal Project Implementation at IDOT, said the Siemens order is good news for the Midwest. “The Illinois Department of Transportation looks forward to bringing new passenger cars with modern amenities to the residents of Illinois as well as our Midwest state partners,” she said.

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty voiced similar sentiments in a Nov. 8 statement: “Caltrans and IDOT are ready for these new railcars to provide additional seating capacity for our busy trains and support planned improvements to passenger service.”

Cars will be built at Siemens’s rail manufacturing hub in Sacramento, California, in a plant that is powered in part by renewable energy. The Sacramento facility also built the “Charger” locomotives now plying state-supported Midwestern Amtrak routes in the same four states: Illinois Services, Michigan Services, Hiawatha Service and the Missouri River Runner.

“These coaches will use the industry’s latest, proven rail technology to provide passengers with a safe, modern and highly comfortable ride,” said Michael Cahill, president of Siemens Rolling Stock.

Production is expected to begin in 2018, Caltrans said.

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