Business & Real Estate

Sacramento manufacturer Siemens to compete for California bullet-train contract

Siemens Rail Systems, the Sacramento-based train-manufacturing giant, said it will make a play this month to win the first major contract to build trains for the California High Speed Rail Authority.

Siemens is expected to be among a handful of international train companies, including some from Japan and China, responding to an invitation issued Thursday by the state rail authority to companies to discuss a billion-dollar-plus contract to build train sets and maintenance facilities.

The announcement, called a “request for expressions of interest,” allows the California high-speed authority to begin having conversations with manufacturers to help it put together a formal contract competition later this year for electric-powered locomotives and passenger cars to run at more than 200 mph between the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

“We are going to have the first true high-speed rail system in America, and industry leaders from around the world are eager to talk to us about why their trains should be running on our tracks,” authority CEO Jeff Morales said in a news release Thursday. “This is a big moment for our program. The manufacturing of train sets and the establishing of maintenance facilities will mean more jobs, increased economic benefits, and allow for the possible development of a whole new high-speed rail industry here in California.”

Siemens, a longtime producer of light-rail vehicles, underwent a major makeover at its French Road manufacturing facility in south Sacramento several years ago to position it to expand its product line, including laying the groundwork for a further expansion that will allow it to compete for high-speed rail contracts.

Siemens officials said Thursday they will respond to California’s request.

“Siemens is very interested in manufacturing high-speed rail trains for California, and would do so locally at our Sacramento facility, if we were selected by the CHSRA,” said Siemens Rail Systems executive Michael Cahill in an email to The Sacramento Bee. “We expect that this will be a very competitive bid with strong interest from around the world. However, we feel confident that with our proven global experience and technology in high-speed rail, we can be a top contender.”

The local Siemens division’s international parent company has produced high-speed trains in Germany, Spain, Russia and China.

The California High Speed Rail Authority said it will be looking for manufacturers to discuss their ability to comply with Buy America and Buy California requirements. Rail officials said they will not know the dollar amount of the contract until they talk with manufacturers and see what bids come in. They said they are expecting to submit an initial order for up to 95 train sets. The trains must be able to sustain speeds of more than 200 mph, and have at least 450 seats.

The authority has set an Oct. 22 deadline for companies to respond to the request for interest. That will be followed by a formal contract bid process late this year or early 2015, with contract award by the end of 2015.