Brightline on Friday became the first company in decades to launch a private rail service between two major metro areas. However, the passenger train’s inaugural trip between Miami and Orlando represented a another milestone — a first for a manufacturing plant 3,000 miles away.
These are also the first operational high-speed trains to be manufactured at Siemens Mobility’s Sacramento plant. At speeds of up to 125 mph, Brightline trains are only surpassed in speed by Amtrak’s Acela trains that run between East Coast cities.
There are no specific international standards for what constitutes high-speed rail, but most new lines outside the U.S are built to accommodate train speeds of at least 160 mph.
Siemens, according to a company representative, is competing for a contract to manufacture rail cars for the first truly high speed rail line in America, Brightline West. Trains on the line would runat speeds up to 200 mph between Las Vegas and Southern California.
The company, which is headquartered in Germany, employs around 2,500 people in Sacramento. The Sacramento plant completed a two-year contract in February where it delivered five trainsets for Florida’s Brightline operation.
Each trainset consisted of four 85-foot long passenger coaches and two locomotives, according to Siemens Mobility spokeswoman Kara Evanko.
She said the company had produced 10 trainsets for Brightline in total. Evanko said first five trainsets were delivered in 2016 and 2017 and were for Brightline’s original service between Miami and West Palm Beach.
Brightline has set the speed on the original line at 79 mph though the locomotives had the capacity of higher speeds. For the Orlando extension, Brightline built a dedicated track without crossings for car and pedestrian crossings for part of the journey, allowing for speeds up to 125 mph.
In its three decades of operation, Siemens Mobility has built more than 3,000 rail passenger vehicles for more than 30 transit agencies in the U.S. and Canada at the 64-acre south Sacramento facility, said Evanko.
Its current contracts include a $3.4 billion agreement to build 71 trains for Amtrak and a $100 million agreement with Sacramento Regional Transit for 20 new light rail vehicles.
Prior to Brightline, Siemens’ US plants had never won contracts to build high speed trains. Marc Buncher,CEO of Siemens Mobility North America, was present to mark the occasion on Friday when the Brightline into the Orlando station.
“Over the past decade. The Brightline and Siemens Mobility teams have worked to take passenger rail in America to new heights,” he said in a statement to The Bee. “Watching the train pull into Orlando, was a moment of not only pride for what we accomplished together, but optimism of what is to come.”
Ben Porritt a spokesman for Brightline, said a key element of the partnership with Siemens was the building of a supply chain for the trains that involved 160 vendors in 27 states.
A key next test for Siemens Mobility North America will be whether it will win the Brightline Westcontract for high-speed train cars and locomotives for planned train service between Rancho Cucamonga in Southern California and Las Vegas.
Porritt said groundbreaking for the rail line should take place by the end of the year.
He said that Siemens Mobility’s Sacramento facility and a competitor, French manufacturer Alstom, which has a manufacturing plant in Hornell, New York, are competing to manufacture the trainsets.
Alstom won a $2 billion contract with Amtrak in 2016 for the production of new rail cars for the company’s Acela service. The service is the highest speed rail service in the U.S. with speeds of up to 150 mph. The new cars will allow the service’s maximum speed to be increased to 160 mph. The first trains are expected to run next year.
Porrit said that Brightline West would be the first truly high-speed train service in the U.S. with train speeds of up to 200 mph.
He said the Southern California to Las Vegas run would take 2 hours and 10 minutes.
The entire project is expected to cost $12 billion dollars.
Siemens had produced high-speed trains at its European facilities, but never in its Sacramento factory complex.
Evanko said the company has the high-speed “expertise and capabilities to bring both the trains and the required signaling and communications systems to the United States.”