Honolulu train maker promises results, unveils new images

Published: Mar. 7, 2013 at 6:13 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 7, 2013 at 9:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) Board Members were given a financial update from Ansaldo Honolulu Joint Venture, the Italian company that will build all the train cars and communication system. The company leadership says its parent companies Ansaldo STS and Ansaldo Breda are financially stable with a worth of more than $2 billion. Even if Ansaldo Breda is sold, Honolulu's contract will be finished.

"Ansaldo STS will continue in a standalone basis to deliver to the promises we have described," said Christian Andi, Ansaldo STS CFO, from Italy.

"We are very confident in the ability to deliver the contract 100 percent," said Joseph Pozza, Ansaldo STS Vice President Administration, Finance and Treasurer.

"We're going to have a lot of bumpy roads I'm sure as we get through this process. It's a very complicated process," said Grabauskas, during the board meeting. "There are literally thousands and thousands of documents and decision points that need to be made so I don't say this is going to be easy but there is a proven track record here that I think people should be confident about."

Ansaldo Honolulu also released two new images of what the rail cars will look like. The color, logo and rainbow graphics still need to be finalized.

"What you saw today was the first glimpse of what the train is going to look like. We'll be reaching out to the public to talk about color schemes and some of the other interior design parts. We're going to make this fun," said Dan Grabauskas, HART CEO. "We're really excited. The rendering I think gives everyone a real sense that this is going to be here and I think it is a really sleek looking train."

Honolulu will have the first driverless train the country.  The conductor will not be on the train but instead at the control center in Waipahu operating the train remotely.  Ansaldo is working on 10 of these systems worldwide and has four up and running right now.

"Ansaldo Honolulu can claim to be the world leader of these driverless steel wheel on steel rail urban transit system," said Enrico Fontana, Ph.D., Ansaldo Honolulu Joint Venture Project Manager.

The HART board has also started talking about making the train completely cashless using credit or debit cards at automated vending machines to dispense a pass good for the train and the bus.

"The goal will really be to have a cashless system. It just eliminates fraud and abuse and makes everything a lot easier and less expensive," said Grabauskas.

"You can quote me on this, those greedy bankers charge to take the money," said Don Horner, HART Board Chair and former banker.

The fare structure is also getting attention.

"We might charge some passengers who are here as visitors and tourists maybe a little bit more for a multi day pass and our kamaaina rate for a monthly pass will be a lot less, similar to what the bus does today," said Grabauskas.

However you will have to wait longer before you get on the train.  The current delay in construction from two legal challenges will delay the opening by about a year. Construction isn't expected to begin on the elevated route until September 2013.

"It is going to be a day for day delay on the interim opening so because we're looking at about a year in total delay we're expecting instead of 2016 it will be 2017 for the first ten miles from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium to open," said Grabauskas.

The delay costs were initially estimated at $84 million.  However Grabauskas says those costs should be somewhere between 25 to 60 percent less than anticipated.

The city also expects to get a check for $67 million from the federal government by Friday. It is the first payment of the $255 million to be given this year.  In total the Full Funding Grant Agreement between the city and federal government is $1.55 billion.

The city says the full $255 million from this year will not be impacted by federal sequestration cuts. However next year's payments could be.

"Obviously like the rest of the federal government we're looking to see what sequestration may mean for next year but for right now the money we have is as good as in the bank," said Grabauskas.

When the train does open in 2017 the city says it may have a soft opening similar to retail stores.

"I think we have an opportunity to have some fun with that first 10 miles as well by giving folks a chance to ride maybe for free on weekends to get a look and feel," said Grabauskas.

To view Ansaldo Honolulu presentation to the HART Board click here.

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