In the last two weeks, Metro-North has taken two significant steps toward its goal of putting a brand-new fleet on the New Haven Line.
Last Thursday the Connecticut Bond Commission approved financing for the last 38 cars of the planned 380, and this Tuesday, the first eight of Metro-North’s new M-8 cars made their first run from Stamford to New York.
“I am thrilled to be able to introduce a new era of comfort and reliability for New Haven Line riders,” said Jeff Parker, Connecticut’s transportation commissioner, in the release. “These cars are the first of the new breed of technologically advanced trains that will serve us for decades to come.”
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The commission will put $81 million toward the cost of the last 38 cars, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Program will cover the rest.
The initial 300-car order was placed with Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. in August 2006, at a cost of $761 million. The order was shared 65 percent by the Connecticut and 35 percent by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The total cost of all 380 cars is $932 million and they are expected to serve the 63,000 customers who use the New Haven Line daily.
The new fleet, produced by Kawasaki, will gradually replace the 320 trains that have been in operation on the New Haven Line for the past 35 years, with 80 in full service by the end of the year, said MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders. The line will then add 10 cars every month for the next two years until all cars are in service by the end of 2013.
While the initial eight M-8’s required 4,000 miles of testing, the remaining 372 cars will only have to complete 1,000 miles of testing, according to a MTA press release Tuesday.
“The [initial] testing took over one year to ensure that the M-8 will provide quality service for its 30 year life,” said Metro-North President Howard Permut in the release. “The many challenges that were revealed during intensive, real-world operations of the most complex rail car in North America on the continent’s busiest rail corridor, have been resolved.”
After a ride on one of the new train cars, Sam Zambuto, spokesman for Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said he was convinced that customers would love the new M-8’s. “The cars … operated beautifully,” Zambuto said.
According to the press release, the new cars have a backup system that will prevent operation disruptions if there is a malfunction. Because the old cars lacked this system, a single component failure required the entire car to be taken out of service.
Other improvements in the new red-interior cars include LED displays to indicate different stops and automated radio announcements, according to the press release. The seats have individual headrests, curved arm rests, electrical outlets and coat hooks. The cars feature improved lighting, and customers can use an intercom system to contact the crew in emergencies. The design of the M-8 cars protects the electrical components within the car body, preventing weather-related malfunctions. To protect the cars from snow intrusion, the doors will be single-leaf.
Anders said the company expects the new cars to have significantly less maintenance issues than the old fleet.
“They [old cars] are all well beyond the point in which they are effective to run,” said Salvatore Arena, a spokesman for the MTA.