New CTA Rail Cars Still Being Tested For Safety

Chicago’s CTA rail service and its rail car manufacturer Bombardier Transportation are still conducting stress tests and X-rays to determine if there is metal fatigue on the new shipment of rail cars.  On December 16, forty cars were pulled off of the Pink Line as a safety precaution and additional cars being manufactured were put on hold.  CTA spokesmen decline to comment on the findings, saying that this testing is not a public process.  However, the $1.14 billion order of 706 new rail cars is funded by taxpayer money.  Scheduled to be completed in 2014 with 192 cars delivered in 2012, the project may need to be extended or canceled due to these setbacks.

The new 5000 Series Bombardier trains have a novel propulsion system that makes the ride smoother.  The cars also feature electronic route maps and aisle-facing seats.  Part of the steel wheel-bearing castings, the car’s journal bearing housing, which contains the axles and wheels and allows the wheels to move independent of the axle, are the source of the problem.  The journal bearing housing could develop cracks quickly and shorten the lifespan of the parts.  To compensate for having these cars out of commission, the CTA has put its old rail cars, which were headed for the scrap pile, back into service.  Some of these cars are more than 40 years old.  The tests on the Bombardier’s new deliveries will continue to be extensive in order to determine whether the parts are of high enough quality to be long-lasting.  Robert Kelly, the president of Local 308 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents CTA workers, told the Chicago Tribune that “these trains come with a warranty, and things did not fall into place the way they should with this contract.  If Bombardier can’t do the job, let’s turn it over to people who can do the job, which is our employees.”



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