Californian high-speed trains one step closer to becoming a reality
California’s high-speed rail authority has taken a significant step towards procuring its first high-speed trainsets, bringing high-speed rail to California nearer to reality, by approving a Request for Qualifications for the nation’s first 220 miles-per-hour (354 kilometres per hour) electrified trainsets. Also in California, Swiss manufacturer Stadler made an agreement with Caltrain for the the first battery train for the American market.
The procurement process takes place in two phases. Foreseeing prospective trainset manufacturers submitting their Statements of Qualifications by November 2023, the Californian high-speed rail authority will then scrutinise these submissions. A selection of teams, deemed capable of delivering the high-speed trainsets, will be shortlisted. After this, a Request for Proposal will be unrolled in the first quarter of 2024, directed at these pre-approved teams.
Authority CEO Brian Kelly underscored the advanced nature of these trainsets, asserting: “These trainsets ensure that we are procuring the latest generation of high-speed trains for this first-in-the-nation project. We look forward to working with members of the industry as we strive to develop a market for high-speed trains in the United States.” Chair Tom Richards emphasised that “This is an important milestone for us to deliver high-speed rail service in the Central Valley and eventually into Northern and Southern California.”
Indeed, the unfolding trainset procurement process will empower the Authority to achieve three main objectives. The first is the acquisition of six trainsets, designed to operate at speeds of 220 miles-per-hour (about 354 kilometres per hour), with testing capabilities extended up to 242 miles-per-hour (about 390 kilometres per hour). Following this, the delivery of two prototypes is scheduled for 2028, facilitating comprehensive static and dynamic testing as well as trial runs. Lastly, the authority aims to complete the integration of an additional four trainsets by the end of 2030, dedicated to supporting operations along the 171-mile (about 275 kilometres) stretch between Merced and Bakersfield.
Prospective contract scope
The scope of work outlined in the prospective contract is extensive and encompasses a wide range of responsibilities. These include the design, manufacturing, integration, testing, and commissioning of the trainsets. Additionally, the contract involves the maintenance of each trainset over a 30-year period and the provision of all necessary spare parts. The management of the driving simulator, covering testing, commissioning, maintenance, and updates, is also a key component.
Furthermore, the contract necessitates the development of design criteria to seamlessly integrate the trainsets with facilities, tracks, and systems. The active participation in testing and commissioning processes for various components, systems, and stations is another critical aspect. The contract also stipulates the provision of essential information to support the certification and subsequent commissioning of the trainsets. Lastly, the operation and maintenance of the Heavy Maintenance Facility, Light Maintenance Facility, and Trainset Certification Facility –constructed by external parties – are integral components of the contract’s scope.
Efforts have already commenced to extend the ongoing 119-mile (about 191 kilometres) construction to a more substantial 171-mile (about 275 kilometres) electrified high-speed rail section between Merced and Bakersfield. With over 30 construction sites active across California’s Central Valley, the Authority has obtained environmental clearance for an impressive 422-mile (about 680 kilometres) expanse of the high-speed rail program, stretching from the Bay Area to the Los Angeles Basin.
In other news on the Californian front, Caltrain has announced a collaboration with Swiss train manufacturer Stadler. This stride towards sustainable and innovative transportation involves an order that includes four additional bi-level Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains and a bi-level battery vehicle. This order, originating as an option within Caltrain’s ongoing contract with Stadler, has recently received approval from the California Transportation Commission. The decision unlocks funds from an 80 million US-dollar award by the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), aimed at facilitating the introduction of battery-equipped electric trains.
Operating on both electrified sections of Caltrain’s corridor and non-electrified segments, the BEMU capitalised on its ability to charge while running on overhead power and subsequently use stored battery charge on off-wire routes. The BEMU’s strategic deployment between San Francisco and San Jose and battery-powered travel between San Jose and Gilroy form an integral demonstration plan to showcase its operational viability and inform future BEMU initiatives.
This transition towards zero-emission service is crucial to achieving California’s ambitious transportation and climate objectives. Additionally, the Caltrain Board’s decision to exercise options on the Stadler contract for four more Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains underscores the agency’s dedicated efforts to replace ageing diesel trains.