Siemens commits to positive train control deadline, N.Y. MTA chief says

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The chief executive of Siemens told New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority that it will complete a safety system for its commuter railroads by the federally mandated December 2020 deadline, MTA Chairman Patrick Foye said.

Foye, MTA Managing Director Ronnie Hakim and board member Sarah Feinberg met last Friday with the German conglomerate's global CEO, Joe Kaeser, about delays and cost overruns related to installation of so-called positive train control.

"I thought they were deadly serious about their commitment," Foye said Monday at a joint meeting of the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad committees.

Foye and board members last month vented at Siemens officials.

"The resolve of this board in prior discussions laid the foundation for the discussions that we had," Foye said Monday. "We made crystal clear that their failures were unacceptable. While commitments are easy, follow-ups are hard, and we will hold their feet to the fire."

Siemens' latest mishap, company officials said in April, involved a mistake in an electrical component installation they detected while fixing a calibration error. That required additional repairs to antennas. According to Foye, Siemens officials had no complaints about the workmanship of railroad officials.

Siemens officials said they would provide weekly updates on the project.

Siemens has performed roughly $2 billion worth of business with the MTA over the past several years.

Board members, who last month said they would favor cutting tied with Siemens, remained skeptical.

"Sincerity is always subject to proof," said board member Neal Zuckerman, invoking President Kennedy's remark about the Soviet Union in the early 1960s.

The MTA, one of the largest municipal issuers with roughly $41 billion in debt, awarded a $440 million contract six years ago to a Siemens-Bombardier joint venture to design and install PTC for LIRR and Metro-North.

The dispute cast a glare on the MTA's procurement systems, perceived as clunky and so restrictive that the authority has often had to rehire vendors despite poor work histories.

PTC is a form of remote-control train technology intended to minimize crash risk. A federal law initially required PTC in place by the end of 2015. Extensions have pushed the deadline for LIRR and Metro-North to the end of 2020.

Foye's comments came one day after U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the Department of Commerce to investigate Chinese state-owned firm CRRC Corp., which won a New York state-sponsored "genius challenge" to work with the MTA on new subway-system technologies.

CRRC received a $330,000 prize last year for a proposal to design a subway car. It committed $50 million of its own money for the project. Schumer wants the feds to determine any possible threat to the MTA and its commuters.

The company has been awarded contracts in recent years to design new subway cars in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia.

Pew Research Center reported last year that state and local government agencies have become increasingly susceptible to cyberattack, notably in public transportation.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who guided a congestion pricing package through the legislature along with the fiscal 2020 budget to bolster the MTA's revenue stream, has vowed to overhaul the authority’s operations.

Language in the budget bill enables the MTA to debar any contractor that exceeds 10% of the contract cost or time on a capital construction project.

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Infrastructure Transportation industry Patrick Foye Metropolitan Transportation Authority New York