In test run to Fairfield, Rell says new RR cars set to roll

Gov. M. Jodi Rell told a trackside audience Monday morning at Union Station in New Haven that a group of the state's new M-8 railcars will make their public debut in early December, before she boarded a three-car set of the cars for a test run between New Haven and Fairfield.

The M-8 rail cars will be the first new rolling stock added on the New Haven line in more than 30 years, and will begin replacing the state's fleet of M-2 and M-4 rail cars, most of which date to the 1970s, Rell said.

"I couldn't be more proud if I were the mother of this train," the governor said. "Four years ago we laid out this vision for our rail fleet to work on our Connecticut transit system and the centerpiece of that program has been the introduction of this fleet."

During the 35-minute ride west to Fairfield, state Transportation Commissioner Jeffrey A. Parker said that as additional cars arrive, they will go through computer software and mechanical tests to tweak on-board diagnostic equipment that controls and monitors performance of propulsion systems, braking, lights, heating and cooling, and bathrooms.

The state expects to be able to put another 10 cars into service each month, Parker said, with the bulk of the production cars being manufactured by Kawasaki Rail Corp at a Lincoln, Neb., plant.

"This is a completely modern rail car," Parker said. "The monitoring equipment is in place to be able to immediately identify a problem that occurs so that we can solve it and that will help us better maintain and keep this fleet of cars reliable for years to come."

During the ride, the train reached a top speed of 70 miles per hour, as passengers checked out the amenities of the cars, including new high-backed seats,

Earlier this year, Rell and the state delayed the first of a series of annual 1 percent fare increases from 2010 to 2017 in the wake of pressure from rail advocates. The increases were enacted by the Connecticut General Assembly in 2007 to help pay for the cars, but Rell said that putting off the hike was the right thing to do until passengers could use the cars.

The state signed a contract with Kawasaki in 2006 to purchase the first 300 rail cars, with an option to purchase an additional 80 cars.

Though the cars were open for a walk-through during an event in August, the ride was the first public showing of the cars in motion.