SANTA CLARA Valley Transportation Authority held ceremonies at San Jose station on March 29 to mark the start of construction of its Vasona light rail line. The $236m first phase diverges from the Guadalupe line and runs 8·5 km to Winchester with nine stops. The line is expected to generate up to 9000 weekday boardings when it opens in the autumn of 2004. A $40m second phase would extend the branch by 2.4 km to Vasona Junction in the town of Los Gatos. The majority of the route will run along existing rail alignments.

VTA currently operates a single 45·7 km route with 46 stations in the Guadalupe and Tasman West corridors, but three routes totalling 24 km are now under construction in the Tasman East, Vasona and Capitol corridors. May 17 sees the opening of the first 3 km of the Tasman East branch, from the current line at First Street to Interstate 880. The remainder should be finished by 2004. These will be followed by further extensions totalling 19·3 km recently approved by the VTA board.

To operate the extended network, VTA has ordered 30 low-floor LRVs from Kinki Sharyo Inc at a cost of $2·9m each. The first two have been delivered (above) and are currently being commissioned; they will initially run on the Tasman lines until platforms on the Guadalupe route are adapted. The contract includes an option for up to 20 more cars, but VTA is negotiating to buy up to 70. These would replace the 50 conventional LRVs supplied by UTDC in 1986-87 and give a 100% low-floor fleet.