POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 10, 2013
~~<p> An Italian train manufacturer continues to stagger with problems but maintains confidence that it will perform adequately in its major role to construct and operate </p>
An Italian train manufacturer continues to stagger with problems but maintains confidence that it will perform adequately in its major role to construct and operate Honolulu's rail system. For now, it must hear the strong message from here to deliver promptly and adequately, but Honolulu transit leaders should be keeping all options open in preparing for a substitute. AnsaldoBreda's contract to provide high-speed trains for operations between Amsterdam and Belgium has been canceled because of problems running in cold weather. Reuters news service reported that the European operators complained of doors coming loose, with parts falling off due to ice and warning horns blocked with snow. Obviously, such problems will not exist on this island. Nor are the problematic trains anything like those ordered by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. The "Fyra" trains to be built for Belgian and Dutch operators were for a high-speed service while the 40 two-car trains ordered by HART are to run driverless at 55 mph. "It's more than apples and oranges to try to compare the two cars," said HART CEO Dan Grabauskas, who toured Europe and met with the Amsterdam-Belgium owners and engineers and executives of AnsaldoBreda and Ansaldo STS, which comprise Ansaldo Honolulu JV, the firm contracted to design, build, operate and maintain Oahu's 20-mile elevated system. Ansaldo's role in the Honolulu system is immense, under a $1.4 billion contract in the $5.36 billion project. Ansaldo STS builds train control and operating systems and made a $98 million profit last year. AnsaldoBreda, which makes the cars, has lost money for years, including $912 million in 2011, and had problems delivering trains to Los Angeles on time and according to specifications. An Italian defense conglomerate that owns both Ansaldo companies has endured heavy losses, credit downgrades and legal problems in recent years. Still, Grabauskas returned last week from Europe exhibiting careful optimism. "You must maintain daily vigilance when it comes to any rail car provider," he explained to the Star-Advertiser's Marcel Honoré. Continued vigilance indeed will be vital, but positive expectations seem well-founded, especially since HART will be allowed to have an inspector in Ansaldo's factory once construction of the Honolulu trains begin next year. On another front: HART officials also have reason to be confident against a federal lawsuit. Its new draft report points out that tunneling under Beretania Street would be "feasible" but far too costly as an alternative to running an elevated track through Kakaako. Opponents maintain that the city neglected to consider the underground route. Barring unforeseen technical problems or legal setbacks, Oahu's rail project is planned to open from Kapolei to Aloha Stadium within five years and be fully completed to Ala Moana by 2019. HART has told the public to expect that this timetable will be met. Given Grabauskas' most recent comments, expectations are high.
Login for more...