New rail cars in testing phase

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Denton County Transportation Authority officials are looking forward to a 2014 fiscal year with increased services and continued financial stability.

The first shipment of new rail cars for the Denton County Transportation Authority's A-train has arrived.

Officials have been eagerly awaiting the cars, which they say will operate more smoothly and accommodate passengers better than the rail cars currently in use.

"It's always better to have your own vehicles," said Dee Leggett, vice president of communications and planning. "You have greater control, and it shows a sense of commitment by DCTA and the community that we're investing in our [rail service]."

The agency received two of the rail cars made by Stadler Bussnang AG, a Swiss company. Each $7.5 million vehicle comes in three pieces shipped on flatbed semis. The cars arrived in the port of Galveston a few weeks ago and were then shipped north.

The cars will be assembled at the rail maintenance and operations facility in Lewisville and then testing will begin, Leggett said. Testing will be done at times when regular service is not running, during the middle of the day and some Sundays.

The next shipment is scheduled to arrive in the middle of October. The agency ordered 11 cars, Leggett said.

"The benefit of these vehicles from a passenger perspective [is that] they offer level boarding," she said. "The doors are wider, and everyone can board at the same location at the same time, which makes it easier for those with bikes, strollers or mobility devices."

The new cars will be quieter, run smoother and be more fuel efficient, Leggett said, which will be an added benefit to communities and an operational benefit to the agency. The new vehicles will require less maintenance than the older Trinity Railway Express cars leased from Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

Leggett also noted the vehicles will be able to accelerate and decelerate faster, which could shave off five minutes from trip times.

The earliest the Stadler models will be in service could be next spring, but they would require waivers from the Federal Railroad Administration since DCTA would be mixing older and newer cars on the track. In the worst-case scenario, Leggett said, it will be next summer when DCTA has enough Stadler cars to not need DART's vehicles.

"DART's been a great partner, but we're definitely excited to have our own vehicles," Leggett said.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is blewis@dentonrc.com.


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