Repairs to fix rail car production defects scheduled to start in March

Local News

Nearly three months after its halt, production of rail cars for the Honolulu rail project is about to start up again.

We first told you back in December about a defect that was found in the frame of rail cars. The issue involved material inside aluminum beams that didn’t fuse together properly. The aluminum beams make up the rail car’s floor structure.

Production was immediately halted and, at the time, it wasn’t clear if the 27 rail cars that were headed for Hawaii were affected.

But now we have an answer — that issue with the beams occurred during the manufacturing process at a Hitachi factory in Italy.

On Saturday, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) invited the public to view the rail cars and ask questions about what they can expect when the rail is up and running.

We found out repairs to fix the defects will start next month. Justin Garrod, HART’s deputy director of systems, says that of the 27 rail cars that have already been produced for the project, all of them are believed to have the material defect found in the underframe.

So what happens next? We’re told a trial run for repairs will start in two weeks at the Hitachi factory in Italy.

“Before HART can even accept it, we have to go through, cut out this material, and weld in the new material,” said Garrod. “Then we’ll check the surrounding material and make sure there’s no defects or degradation as a result of the cut and re-weld. That’ll probably take six to eight weeks to work through the repair, the first car shell.”

Meanwhile, more testing on the car’s design and lifetime performance is also set to begin, and Garrod says HART is using the defective rail cars to do this.

Here’s why, according to Garrod. “We have to test the trains to find issues that we can’t see right now. Early reports indicate that we’re finding good results, meaning there’s very little stress on this piece of the underfloor structure.

“It doesn’t mean that we would leave the cracks in,” he said. “Cars are going to be repaired. They’ll have to go through the repair process, but what it does do is it allows us to progress the testing, which is very critical to moving the train system forward.”

Once testing is done and it’s been determined the repair process is effective, the defects in the underframe will be fixed.

We wanted to know if the repairs will delay the rail project yet again? Garrod says no.

“Even without the repair of the 27 car shells that we already have produced, they’re able to meet the interim opening needs, and we’ll be able to meet the needs of full opening with certainty.”

There is no word on how long all the repairs could take, but HART should have a better idea once the test repairs are finished in June.

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