FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — Train riders rejoice: Connecticut will soon purchase an additional 60 M-8 rail cars, offering up not just more seats on Metro-North but also a place to get a drink and socialize on the way home from work.
Yes, the bar cars, which were all retired in 2014, will be returning to the New Haven Line.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Tuesday announced the purchase as the New Haven Line continues to experience all-time high record ridership and remains the busiest commuter rail line in the nation.
With each car carrying 105 seats, adding the new cars will accommodate more than 6,000 additional commuters.
Under current plans, 10 of the 60 new rail cars will be converted into café cars — popularly known as bar cars.
"If we want to remain competitive in the 21st-century, modernized economy in a way that attracts new businesses and creates high-skilled jobs, we must update our infrastructure and give our commuters a best-in-class transportation system," Malloy said. "We have witnessed what decades of underinvestment has resulted in, and we can no longer afford to sit back and let the status quo remain."
The New Haven Line is owned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and is operated by Metro-North Railroad under contract with the CTDOT.
An allocation of $200 million will be considered later this month at the next meeting of the State Bond Commission to approve the purchase of the new M-8 rail cars. The state did not say when the new cars would be in service or when the bar cars would be rolling.
In 2015, the New Haven Line carried more than 40.3 million passengers, up 2 percent from the prior year and setting an all-time record. Ridership overall is up about 12 percent over the last five years, with peak-hour ridership up 27 percent.
The New Haven Line is now carrying as many passengers today as had been predicted for 2021, said CTDOT Commissioner James P. Redeker.
He added that CTDOT is testing the M-8 rail cars for possible use on Shore Line East, the commuter railroad between New Haven and New London, where trains need to be propelled by locomotives. The M-8s are powered by overhead catenary lines and do not need locomotives.
Connecticut has already purchased 405 of the M-8 rail cars, which began going into service in 2011 and are now standard on the New Haven Line. Most of the older M-2 rail cars have been retired, but a small fleet remain as backups.
Since their implementation, the new M-8 cars have been well received by customers, who have praised the roomier, high-back, contoured seats with individual headrests and curved, anchored arm rests. The cars have larger windows and better lighting, especially in the vestibules for improved safety.
Each pair of cars have been equipped with bike racks, and they also have intercom systems that customers can use to contact the crew in case of emergency.
Other features include LED displays that show the next stop and automated audio announcements, electrical outlets to charge personal devices, coat hooks, and curved luggage racks.
Outside, customers see prominent electronic destination signs and external public address speakers. Single leaf doors provide high reliability and lessen the susceptibility to snow intrusion.
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