Austin Capital Metro Red Line train.

USA: Capital Metro’s Red Line commuter rail route between Austin and Leander opened for revenue service on March 22, two years later than originally anticipated. There was no formal inaugural ceremony or ribbon cutting at any of the nine stations.

Running northwest from the Texas state capital, the line is operated by six Stadler GTW 2/6 diesel LRVs. These will initially provide a peak-hour only service on weekdays, with nine trains in the morning and 10 during the evening rush hours, including four reverse-commute trips. The full 52 km journey takes around 60 min. Minimum headway is 35 min, and some services terminate short of Leander.

According to the agency, ridership on the first day totalled 2 942, with a lot of sightseers taking advantage of the free rides. There were empty seats on the six morning trips from Leander but the afternoon runs attracted three times as many people. No problems occurred, with passengers reporting a smooth, comfortable ride.

Capital Metro expects an average of 2 000 weekday boardings but the actual number of regular commuters won’t be known until the second week of operation when fare collection will begin. Tickets will cost $2 or $3, depending on the distance travelled. Passes will cost $6 for a day, $20 for a week and $70 for a month. The agency does not plan to run regular weekend services for the foreseeable future.

The start of commercial operation followed formal approval by the Federal Railroad Administration after final testing on March 5.

The Red Line had been within days of opening in March 2009 when Capital Metro announced an indefinite delay to address safety and operational issues, related primarily to the signalling and level crossing equipment. Over the following months the agency appointed Herzog as operating contractor in place of Veolia and the general manager resigned.