Voith to provide pushback coupler systems for 130 CALTRANS/IDOT railcars

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

Voith Turbo, a Group Division of Voith GmbH, has won a contract to provide 260 pushback coupler systems to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). The pushback couplers, part of Voith's Crash Energy Management (CEM) technology, will be installed on 130 higher-speed bilevel passenger railcars being supplied to Caltrans and IDOT by Nippon Sharyo.

“Our CEM technology is designed to limit damage to passenger railcars by the use of sacrificial energy absorbers, preventing derailment and car override (telescoping),” said Voith Turbo Rail Division Vice President Kevin Simms. “The systems we employ feature energy absorbers to reduce the force of the crash felt on the railcars by passengers. Tests have shown Voith’s CEM system limits the g-force of the initial impact in the case of a collision.”

Caltrans was the first passenger rail system to require CEM technology. The agency’s coupler system specifications have been adopted by the PRIIA (Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act) 305 Next Generation Equipment Committee. PRIIA 305 standards are being used in specifications for many new railcar procurements across the U.S. Voith is an active member of this committee.

Voith manufactures its CEM systems in York, Pa. To date, Voith’s orders for pushback couplers have been for new passenger railcars and locomotives. However, these couplers can be retrofitted to existing passenger railcars.

“Voith’s CEM technology improves safety and reduces equipment damage for transit systems across the U.S.,” said Simms. “As the Caltrans/IDOT order demonstrates, in just a few years, Voith’s innovative and effective coupler design has become the industry benchmark. Expanding the use of CEM technology will not only save transit authorities money by limiting damage during crashes; more important, it will also enhance the safety of their passengers.”

Since 2008, Voith has secured orders for nine different transit agencies across the U.S. and Canada.

On Nov. 6th, 2012, Caltrans awarded the contract for 130 higher-speed bilevel passenger railcars to be built by Nippon Sharyo and prime contractor Sumitomo Corporation of America (SCOA). The contract includes a base order of 130 railcars for $352 million along with an option to purchase an additional 300 railcars for $898 million, bringing the contract total to $1.25 billion.

Caltrans executed the contract as the lead agency in a joint procurement with IDOT, which is representing the states of Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri to develop higher-speed (up to 125 mph on existing rights-of-way) service. Of the 130 railcars, 42 will be delivered to California, while the coalition of midwestern states will receive 88. The first railcars are scheduled to be delivered in late 2015, with the final railcar to be delivered by early 2018. Funding for the railcars will come from grants originated in The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which provided for improvements in high speed intercity rail transportation as a way to stimulate economic activity. As a stipulation of the ARRA, the railcars covered in the award to Nippon Sharyo will be manufactured under a “100% Buy America” requirement. To aid in meeting this requirements, Nippon Sharyo Manufacturing, LLC was established as a new production facility in July of 2012 in Rochelle, Ill., to conduct material procurement, carbody manufacturing, final assembly, and testing.

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