Long awaited Silverliner V contract complete

Two years behind schedule, SEPTA’s 120-car Silverliner V order is officially complete. Wednesday SEPTA celebrated the completion of the $274 million contract, which has brought millions of dollars to the local, regional and state economies, created more than 250 local jobs and resulted in the creation of Hyundai Rotem’s manufacturing plant in South Philadelphia.

With the completion of the Silverliner V order, SEPTA’s fleet now has 120 109-seat Silverliner V rail cars and 231 120-seat Silverliner IVs. The regional rail fleet also has 61 Bombardier cars. All of the 73 IIs and IIIs have been retired. 

“It’s taken a long time and a lot of hard work to arrive at this celebration,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey. He and other SEPTA officials declared it a great day for SEPTA and thanked United Transit Systems, LLC (UTS), a consortium Hyundai-Rotem and Sojitz Corporation America, for working with the authority.

New and improved Silverliner Vs

Though the order is approximately two years behind schedule, SEPTA’s Assistant General Manager of Operations Ron Hopkins said in an email that, “that’s not uncommon for a project of this magnitude. UTS is an international company that had to establish a presence in Philadelphia, hire workforce, build a manufacturing plant and work on a new design.”

Instead, the focus seems to be on the improvements the new cars have brought to SEPTA’s fleet. 

For instance, on time performance has never been better Casey said. He attributes that, in part, to SEPTA’s equipment reliability and the reduction in overcrowding, both of which have increased because of the new Silverliner Vs. 

According to SEPTA, the new cars and their enhanced passenger amenities have been met with rave reviews by passengers

Tony DeSantis, treasurer of the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers (DVARP), said the improved on-board communication system and middle doors, which make standing on crowded trains more conducive, are among the improvements. 

“[DVARP has] taken a very active interest in the planning and design process, and this is definitely a milestone for the riders,” DeSantis said at the celebration with SEPTA, Hyundai and Sojitz officials. 

He thanked SEPTA for staying on top of the Silverliner V production process and ensuring that everything was done according to specification, without any shortcuts. 

“I know there have been a lot of problems with this [contract], which happens when you do something for the first time, so I also want to thank Rotem for bearing with all of us,” he said.  

Economic impact

A focus of SEPTA, Hyundai Rotem and Sojitz officials at the contract completion celebration was the multiplier effect the $274 million “landmark contract” has had on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the United States.

To complete the contract, Rotem first had to build the $27 million manufacturing plant in South Philadelphia and then hire more than 250 local workers.

Pasquale Deon, SEPTA chairman, said the contract was complex and involved many companies as well as countries. The SEPTA board went out of its way to make sure UTS sourced parts and supplies from Pennsylvania and the United States, Deon said. 

In Pennsylvania, the contract led to more than $10 million spent in each of seven counties – Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks, Lehigh and Allegheny. Between $1 million and $10 million was spent in 12 Pennsylvania counties, and another 10 counties saw between $100,000 and $500,000. 

The Silverliner V’s $49.28 million propulsion system was produced by Warrendale, Pa.’s Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc. In West Chester, Pa., Westcode made the $6 million heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, and the $8 million gear unit came from Voith Turbo in York, Pa. 

In addition the cab heater, operator’s seat, communication system, truck assembly, batteries, hand pump, window glass, wire harness and journal bearing on each Silverliner V were produced in Pennsylvania. 

What’s next for Rotem and the South Philly facility?

Rotem plans to continue using the South Philadelphia manufacturing plant.

“We are going to make this investment worthwhile,” said Kyu-Hwan Han, CEO and Vice Chairman of Hyundai Rotem. 

Already the company is working on some of the 75 rail cars it is set to produce for Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Next Rotem will produce 56 rail cars for Denver’s transit system. 

Rotem is “eager and excited about the upcoming Silverliner VIs,” Han said. He hopes that SEPTA will choose to work with Rotem on that contract and said that Rotem is confident it can achieve all of SEPTA’s goals if the company is given that opportunity. 

Hopkins said SEPTA is still in “very early discussions” about the Silverliner VIs order. 

As for penalties Rotem may face due to the project delays on the Silverliner V order, Hopkins said, SEPTA and Rotem are still discussing those matters. 

“One of the things we’re going to be insisting,” DeSantis said on behalf of DVARP, “is if there are penalties in all this, they don’t take anything in kind.”

DVARP would like to see SEPTA receive any penalties in cash. 

For now though, DeSantis said, “I’m just glad to see this is finally done… It’s all good. At least today, it’s all good.”

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