USA: US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on April 20 that manufacturers had been invited to bid for a contract worth $551m to supply 130 double-deck cars for Amtrak services, under ‘a groundbreaking multi-state effort to jointly purchase standardised rail equipment’.

With funding from the Federal Railroad Administration’s High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program, the new cars are to be deployed on Amtrak routes in California, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri ‘and potentially Iowa’. The preferred bidder is due to be selected this autumn for deliveries to start in 2015.

According to the US Department of Transportation, the Buy America provisions of the Request for Proposals issued to potential suppliers require that ‘all components’ of the new cars ‘are built by American workers’ and ‘with American-produced steel, iron and manufactured goods’. USDoT has been working with the Department of Commerce to connect major rolling stock manufacturers with more than 34 000 domestic suppliers ‘and help them retool their production capabilities’.

USDoT says that new uniform standards ‘will drive down lifecycle costs and allow more manufacturers and suppliers to compete, fostering a healthy competition while helping re-establish the US domestic supply chain for passenger rail equipment’. The common design should also simplify rolling stock maintenance, including staff training and spares inventories, reducing costs and increasing fleet reliability.

‘President Obama has called on us to invest in transportation systems that are built to last’, said LaHood. ‘This important opportunity represents a win-win scenario for both workers and the traveling public by helping to create manufacturing jobs and support passenger rail’.