Metra and Stadler sign BEMU contract

Chicago commuter rail Chicago commuter rail operator Metra awarded Stadler a contract for the supply of 16 battery-electric trains with a first call for 8 two-car BEMUs. The order will be later expanded to three-car or four-car trainsets. USD 154 million is the value of the ordered battery-powered trainsets, including engineering, training, and spare parts. The first sets are expected to be delivered in 2027-2028.

The USD 181.4 million options for up to 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 USD 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 state PAYGO programme will pay for the grant’s required local match of 20%.

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

The trains ordered from Metra will be manufactured to be winterised and thus adapted to the severe winter conditions in Chicago. The features include efficient air conditioning technology including underfloor heating in the boarding areas as well as special insulation and well-sealed machine rooms to protect the drive technology.

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

Metra believes the battery-powered 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 Metra achieve its vision to provide more frequent all-day service, the so-called regional rail service.

A fully charged trainset is expected to have a range of 45 (72.4 km) to 65 miles (104.6 km). 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, the Chicago commuter rail operator says.

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 (26.4 km). That would directly benefit the air quality in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago and in the near south suburbs.

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