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Facts about Metra's Highliner purchase

(July 19, 2012) - 
Nippon Sharyo has used state and local incentives and an order from Metra to start a new passenger railcar-building business in Rochelle, Illinois. The new facility was officially opened today in a ceremony attended by officials from Nippon Sharyo, Gov. Pat Quinn, federal and local officials and Metra Chairman Larry Huggins and Executive Director/CEO Alex Clifford.
 
Below are some facts about the Highliner order and Metra Electric Line:
  • In August 2010, the Metra Board of Directors approved a contract with Sumitomo Corp. of America to buy 160 new Highliner cars for use on our Metra Electric Line. Nippon Sharyo is Sumitomo’s car-building partner. The contract is for $577 million.
  • The Metra Electric Line is the only Metra line that uses electric multiple-unit (EMU) cars, which are electric self-propelled coaches that draw power from an overhead catenary wire system. It does not share equipment with the other 10 Metra lines, which have diesel locomotives.
  • The Metra Electric Line runs over 32 miles from far south suburban University Park through the south suburbs and south side of Chicago to Van Buren Station and Millennium Station downtown. It has two branch lines to Blue Island and South Chicago. It is the third-busiest Metra line with 20,000 passengers a day.
  • The current fleet was purchased in the 1970s when the line was operated by Illinois Central. Metra purchased the route from IC in 1987. The existing cars, which are made of less durable carbon steel instead of stainless steel, can no longer be economically refurbished and must be replaced.
  • Replacing the cars has been a priority for Metra since 2004, when the last state bond program expired. Metra bought 26 new Highliners at the tail end of that program but had to wait until the next bond program was approved to order new cars in 2010.
  • The new cars will be made out of stainless steel and will use alternating current propulsion, which will supply more power and require less maintenance than the DC cars they are replacing.
  • The new cars will have larger windows, better seats with reversible seatbacks, brighter lighting, non-skid floors and an improved public address system. They will also have power outlets for customer use.
  • Half of the new cars will have bathrooms. Counting the 26 newer cars with bathrooms that already are in service, more than half the Metra Electric fleet will have bathrooms, and every train will have at least one bathroom.
  • The first 80 cars of our purchase will be built in Japan (the car shell and frame) and assembled in Rochelle, but the second 80 will be built and assembled here. The hope is that Nippon Sharyo will win more jobs and continue to build cars here well into the future.
  • Nippon Sharyo will exceed the 60 percent buy American provision on this contract. In addition, 10 percent of the contract value will be met with Illinois vendors, which will help generate and/or sustain more Illinois jobs. Sumitomo also will meet the 10 percent DBE requirement.
  • Although the Metra Electric Line cars cannot be used on the diesel lines, we have designed these cars so that, where possible, they share parts with those used on diesel bi-level cars.
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