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Monday, November 15, 2010

Gov. Rell Test Rides New M-8 Rail Cars

Gov. Rell Test Rides 
New M-8 Rail Cars,
Announces State Will Boost Car Order by 42 Units
(Appeared on New Canaan 11/15)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

New Haven – There’s nothing like that new car smell especially when that aroma is coming from a long-anticipated brand new rail car.

Delivering on a promise she made to Connecticut commuters shortly after taking office, Governor M. Jodi Rell boarded the first set of new M-8 rail cars Monday morning Nov. 15 for a test run from New Haven to Fairfield. Rell highlighted the testing with the announcement that the state would be increasing its order for M-8s from 300 units to 342, with the additional cars paid for with already earmarked funds.

From the Track Three platform at New Haven’s Union Station, the Governor addressed a small gathering which, besides press, included MTA police, electricians, mechanical and operations representatives and even Shenko the German Shepard from the area K-9 unit.

One of the train cars had been labeled with Rell’s name, about which she was surprised and amused. “This has been a long time coming, to actually get to ride on it. Last year at Christmas Eve, I got to sit on the train first. Since then, I bugged the DOT every day and they kept saying ‘It’s coming.’”

She remarked that the New Haven line is one of the busiest and thanked Kawasaki Rail Car Co., the builders, for their hard work. “Our current fleet has traveled millions of miles, but it’s time for a new fleet. It’s been over 30 years since Connecticut had new rail cars.”

The price tag for the initial 300 cars was $760 million. The additional 42 are pegged at $100 million. The state will cover 65% of the cost while Metro North covers the balance. To date, the state has received 22 M-8s.

The Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, Jeffrey Parker, who joined Rell for the ride, said, “We hope to have two 6-to-8 car trains in service in December.”

Also on board was Kawasaki’s Chief Executive Officer for North America, Hiroji Iwasaki, who is based in Yonkers, NY. He spoke about the company’s history and this project in particular. “Kawasaki has been making rail cars since 1906. This has been the most complicated and challenging project. We are doing very thorough testing of the subsystems and are very excited. We hope you will enjoy riding these cars.”

Iwasaki noted that these initial cars had been built in Japan but that the balance will be completed at his company’s plant in Lincoln, Nebraska. Two of the tail-end cars in the train today still contained testing equipment and, in each of the seats, multiple 50-lb. sandbags had been placed to approximate the weight a crowded train car would carry.

Features of the new cars, with comparison to the old, are numerous and include the following:
-       End doors are powered not manual
-       Larger windows
-       Electronic station stop displays visible from every seat
-       110 outlet in every row
-       Bigger bathrooms with auto flush systems, all handicapped accessible
-       Hand rails at each seat
-       More distinct arm rests
-       Dual HVAC systems
-       Wider middle seats
-       Scratch-resistant finish

The new cars are also pre-wired for wi-fi according to Jim Fox, Principal of Rail Operations for the DOT and Project Engineer Charles Clarke. “We don’t have a provider yet – the MTA is working on – and will be testing feasibility.”

Rell stressed the importance of the new rail cars. “This is critical to the economy of the state. Metro North’s New Haven line alone in one month carries more passengers than the L.I.R.R.”

As the Governor disembarked in Fairfield, she summed up, “Well, I’m impressed… and I couldn’t be more proud if I was the mother of this train.”