Old 02-05-2005, 02:39 AM   #1
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Default Amtrak to Lease 8 P40's to Conn Dot


Connecticut Post

Amtrak to lease 8 Locomotives to state
By ROB VARNONrvarnon@ctpost.com

Friday, February 04, 2005 -

Amtrak's board of directors on Thursday approved a deal to lease eight locomotives to Connecticut for more than $1.9 million for the first year as the national railroad faces the threat of having a huge government subsidy pulled.

Jim Boice, bureau chief of the state Department of Transportation's rail office and finance, said DOT and Metro-North Railroad engineers will select the locomotives and that Amtrak will retrofit them to work in Connecticut. Train operating systems are configured differently depending on the area of country where they operate, according to the DOT.

Cliff Black, an Amtrak spokesman, said the locomotives became surplus when the railroad dropped out of the mail freight business in September. He said the locomotives are up to 10 years old.

The locomotives will allow the state to put into service the 26 rail coaches it bought from Virginia in September to help shore up the Connecticut-owned fleet of rail cars, which are old and prone to breakdown.

The Virginia coaches are about 10 years old and will be used primarily on the Shore Line East railroad that operates between New London and New Haven. This will allow the DOT to transfer train cars from Shore Line East to Metro-North, adding more seats to the line that runs from New Haven to New York City. That line uses rail cars that are about 30 years old, according to the DOT.

The state has an option to buy the locomotives for $12 million, Boice said. Under the terms of the deal, the state will pay $20,000 per locomotive per month after taking delivery and must act on the buy option by July 2007, he said.

When the locomotives will enter service is the big question, one Boice said he can't answer until after he receives a report from the engineers.

James Cameron, vice chairman for the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said the lease agreement is a step in the right direction but hopes the state will start to buy new equipment.

"We've begged, borrowed and leased used cars and locomotives to death, Cameron said.

His organization has been lobbying for new cars for Metro-North for more than five years as the old rail cars continue to break down, leaving standing-room-only during rush hours.

Boice said the DOT estimates it will cost $1.2 billion to buy 340 new rail cars and create the maintenance facilities needed to take care of them. Gov. M. Jodi Rell has said she will unveil her rail-fix plan with her budget Wednesday.

Rob Varnon, who covers business, can be reached at 330-6216.
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