Stadler Lands Metra BE Trainset Purchase

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Chicago’s Metra has awarded a contract to Stadler U.S. for zero-emission, battery-electric (BE) single-level trainsets and as such “will be one of the first in the nation to operate this innovative technology.”

The contract includes a $154 million base order for eight two-car BE trainsets, including engineering, training, and spare parts, with options costing up to an additional $181.4 million for eight more trainsets and up to 32 trailer cars, which could be added to the two-car trainsets to create three- or four-car trainsets. Metra received a $169.3 million federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) grant for the trainset purchase, which will cover the base order and some of the options. Funds from the Illinois PAYGO program will pay for the grant’s required local match of 20%. The RTA (Regional Transportation Authority), which owns and operates Metra regional/commuter rail service, has a $5.98 billion 2024-2028 capital budget.

The BE trainsets will have low-level boarding and will be equipped with lifts to make them ADA-compliant. Each two-car set will seat 112 people, and each additional trailer car will provide seating for about 46 people. They will have open gangways so riders can move freely from car to car, and will include such features as passenger information signs, bike and luggage racks and USB outlets. Half of the trailer cars, if purchased, would include ADA-accessible bathrooms. The first trainsets are expected to be delivered in 2027-2028.

“A fully charged trainset is expected to have a range of 45 to 65 miles,” Metra noted. “Charging time will vary, but going from a 20% charge to 80%, enough for the trainset to operate, is expected to take about 20 to 30 minutes. The exact charging infrastructure and its cost is yet to be determined.”

Metra plans to introduce the trainsets between LaSalle St. and Blue Island on the Beverly Branch of the Rock Island Line, a distance of 16.4 miles. “That would directly benefit the air quality in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago and in the near south suburbs,” the agency said. “BE trainsets could be a more economical and environmentally friendly way to provide the same level of service or better, particularly during off-peak times. They could play a significant role in helping us achieve our vision to provide more frequent all-day service, so-called regional rail service.”

The procurement will meet Buy America requirements, with final assembly in Stadler’s Salt Lake City plant. Stadler has been building similar FLIRT (Fast, Light, Innovative Regional Train) trainsets for three other U.S. transit agencies, but those are powered by diesel engine gensets or hydrogen fuel cells rather than batteries. In Europe, Stadler has built electric, diesel/electric hybrid, and battery-powered versions.

The BE procurement will allow Metra to retire some of its oldest diesel-electric locomotives and railcars, which the agency noted “are well beyond their useful life,” and “eliminate tons of carbon emissions.”

“This purchase demonstrates Metra’s commitment to cleaner power, to quieter trains, and to thinking outside the box as we plan for our future,” said Metra CEO and Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “We are excited to bring this technology, and its efficiency, flexibility and reliability, to Chicago and our riders.”

Watch this video on Metra’s Stadler BE trainsets:

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