Incorporation of new trains for L.I.R.R., Metro-North halted by contract negotiations

Robert Pelaez

The arrival of a new fleet of Long Island Rail Road trains has been delayed for at least six months, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said. Roughly $467 million has been allocated to buy up to 390 M-9A cars for the LIRR and the Metro-North Railroad.

One hundred ninety of the cars will be used by the LIRR.

“Unfortunately, initial proposals came in with prices far in excess of our internal estimates and budgets,” Jim Allen, LIRR chief rolling stock programs officer, told MTA board members at a meeting Oct. 21. “Additionally, the delivery schedules proposed were far greater than what the railroads could accept.”

LIRR officials anticipated reaching a contract agreement several months ago. Now Allen anticipates negotiations with car manufacturers will result in a contract by January.

“The M-9A project team has spent a tremendous amount of time and effort with the car builders to develop technical specifications for the best and final offer,” Allen said.

With capital programs such as the East Side Access and third track underway for Long Island, MTA officials have expressed the need for updated passenger cars.

Initial projections from December 2017 slated 88 M-9A trains to be introduced in time for the completion of the East Side Access Project in 2022. With the delays, commuters will be using dated M-3 cars until 2024. The M-3 trains have been in use since 1992, and are identified by their wood-paneled interior, faded red and blue seats and antiquated technological amenities.

These updates come one month after the LIRR introduced the first group of 12 M-9 cars, the predecessor to the M-9A.  These cars also saw delays stemming from problems with interior design and technological software. The updated cars are the initial step of a phase-in for a modernized commute.

M-9 cars feature improvements such as slightly expanded seating, additional USB ports in electrical outlets, scratch and haze-resistant windows and enhanced bathroom facilities. 

Other technological updates include several 32-inch multimedia screens in each car, LED displays to indicate in which car a passenger is located in relation to the rest of the train and modernized cameras allowing crew members to view passenger areas on the train.

“These new cars will offer new amenities and a better environment for our customers,” LIRR President Phil Eng said. “Even if your train isn’t composed of these cars, there’s a good chance they will benefit you because as we receive more of them, we will lengthen many of our busiest trains, providing more seats for more customers.”

Allen and the LIRR anticipate M-9 cars will be gradually introduced until all 202 cars are in service by March 2021.

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