Mare Island’s Alstom snags game-changing contract, promises growthOctober 26 2017
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald
POSTED: 10/25/17, 3:34 PM PDT | UPDATED: 9 HRS AGO
After 100-plus years in business, in its seventh year on Mare Island, Alstom Transportation, Inc.’s most recently awarded contract promises to be “a game changer” for the firm, several of its principals said.
The company, named for two of its founders (Alsaciennes and Thompson), was awarded a several-years-long contract worth more than $140 million by Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO) to perform the mid-life overhaul of 52 P2000 light rail vehicles which operate on LA’s Blue, Green and Expo lines, company officials said.
The international train car-making/repair/modernization company, based in France, and present in more than 60 countries with 32,000 employees, now have 40 at its Mare Island facility. But, since the LA METRO work will be done here, officials said they expect that number to climb to 100.
Alstom’s Mare Island team also performs extensive wreck damage repairs on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner fleet and is making modifications to 66 Caltrans bi-level intercity passenger rail coaches, they said. It’s also overhauling and rebuilding traditional passenger cars into more luxurious coaches for Rocky Mountaineer, they said.
“We’re at 2,400 employees and growing in the U.S. and Canada,” said spokeswoman Michelle Stein, who is based on the East Coast. “We’ve won several large contracts, besides Los Angeles, including the San Francisco metro, with Caltrans, Rocky Mountaineer, and others. We’ll be updating this site to a whole other level.”
When Alstom is through with the overhauls, these rail cars will have at least another 15 years of life, but with enhanced comfort, availability, and reliability, company officials said.
The rail cars have already begun arriving — some by rail, others by flatbed truck — at Alstom’s Mare Island facility, where they will be stripped, assembled, and tested. Alstom’s Naperville, Illinois, site will provide the required engineering for the L.A. project, officials said.
One fairly recent project was the engineering of a way to modify Caltrans train cars so bicycles could be stored on board. Alstom engineers designed the fix and its technicians installed it, they said.
Alstom also has a multi-million dollar contract with San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for an inventory control program that aims to help the agency improve fleet availability.
With 151 light rail vehicles, 26 historic streetcars and 40 cable cars, the agency requires a continuous supply of spare parts and inventory, much of which become obsolete or difficult to find as the fleet ages, said managing director Laurent Fromont, a French national based in Chicago. Alstom’s program identifies the most critical and the most used parts, manages the purchase of train parts and control and flow of inventory, and provides reverse engineering to recreate parts that are unavailable or obsolete, he said.
Site manager Shawn Gavne, who lives in Vallejo, said the increased business will require the hiring of at least 50 more people, including design engineers and industrial technicians.
Vallejo is not Alstom’s first foray into California, said Gavne, who said he’s a second-generation train man, besides being a model train enthusiast since childhood.
“My father worked with trains, so, I was familiar with the industry, and it provided a good life for my family,” he said. “We had a site in Oakland in the 90s, with five people, for wreck repairs for Amtrack. We moved to Mare Island in 2009 and centralized into this great industrial site.”
Alstom did not always concentrate completely on trains, the three said, noting that the firm built the ocean liner, QE2, though it no longer works on ships.
The move to Vallejo provided rail access, the possibility of expanding to other industrial buildings, and a labor pool with the requisite skill set, the Alstom officials said.
“This is a long-term investment,” said Fromont, who has been with the company for 28 years. It was his first job. “We’re building for the long term.”
The three said that the widely shared desire in the West to move large numbers of people efficiently and be environmentally friendly ensures the continued need both for rail as a public conveyance and for its ongoing modernization.
“We’re checking a number of other opportunities, also,” Fromont said. “We have good reason to be optimistic.”
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Contact Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824.