As many readers already know, a proposed deal for Metro to spend $300 million to purchase 100 new rail cars from the manufacturer AnsaldoBreda collapsed over the weekend when the company asked again for changes to a contract with the agency.
The Los Angeles Times’ editorial page weighed in on the issue today. The editorial did not pull any punches. An excerpt:
“AnsaldoBreda’s promises were lavish: an energy-efficient “green” factory that would pay its unionized workers top wages, plus a money-back guarantee in the form of a $300-million performance bond. Yet long before Friday, it was clear that those vows were suspect — AnsaldoBreda’s history with the MTA is a tale of incompetence and expense. The company is past its deadline on a previous contract to deliver 50 rail cars; some cars arrived up to three years late and were thousands of pounds overweight. Rather than accept the agreed-on penalties for these defects, the company is disputing them.”
So what happens next?
First, it appears likely that the Metro Board of Directors will vote on Dec. 10 to ask rail car builders to submit bids to build more than 100 rail cars that the agency will need as more rail lines open in future years. AnsaldoBreda can bid on that contract, but it’s unknown whether the firm will again offer to build those cars in Los Angeles as part of the contract deal.
Second, the Board will likely have to decide whether it will pursue federal funds for those cars. The federal dollars could not be used for the old contract, but a new contract may be eligible. If so, the agency could potentially save millions of dollars of its own money.
I’ll raise a third issue: as Metro rail passengers know, the seats on the AnsaldoBreda cars are narrower than on the existing rail cars. It does not always make for a comfortable ride.
Agency staff have said that the AnsaldoBreda cars were supposed to have seats that were 36 inches wide — but that they came in narrower than that. Seats in existing cars are 37.5 inches wide. Officials today said that in the new procurement process they will ask for seats 36 seats wide and may even ask for them wider.
To which I say: Good idea!