The Metro board has some doubts about railcar manufacturer CAF’s ability to keep its promises.
Houston transit officials, worried that the light rail system might run short of trains for months after two new lines open, are not satisfied with a new schedule for delivery of delayed rail cars.
Metropolitan Transit Authority officials expressed deep frustration as they got their first update Thursday on CAF U.S.A.’s revised schedule to deliver 39 new trains to Houston, meant to expand the city’s light rail service.
Two new rail lines are expected to open later this year, possibly in September or October. To have enough trains to run timely service, Metro needs most – if not all – of the new rail cars to increase its fleet from 37 to 76.
Under the most optimistic scenario, Metro would have 45 trains ready to ferry passengers if the lines open in September.
Board members told Metro staff and a CAF representative Thursday that they were skeptical that even the revised schedule is feasible. Even if the company holds true to its latest delivery promises, it still leaves light rail service in a lurch.
“We have gone out on limb, and we are hanging there,” Metro board member Cindy Siegel said, turning her attention to a CAF employee in the audience. “I still don’t have a lot of confidence, and you can carry that message to your CEO.”
Without the trains, Metro plans to start limited service on the two new lines by taking trains off the Red Line. Reducing double-car trains to single cars on the Red Line would lead to severe crowding, officials and riders said.
See here, here, and here for the background. As I’ve said before, I think Metro can muddle through with a shortage of trains for a little while, but the longer it goes the worse it gets, especially if the endpoint is unclear. At this point, I hope they’re warming up the lawyers, because however much oversight Metro may exercise at this point, I have a feeling they’re going to need to enforce some consequence clauses in their contract.