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First unmanned metro line with Hitachi Rail’s trains opened in the US

5 July 2023
Reading time ~ 2 min
Unmanned trains by Hitachi Rails on the first section of Skyline metro, Honolulu
Unmanned trains by Hitachi Rails on the first section of Skyline metro, Honolulu. Source: Transportation HNL/
Stolchnev Alexey, Russian Projects Editor, ROLLINGSTOCK Agency
Reading time ~ 2 min
Savenkova Ekaterina, Editorial Contributor to International Projects of ROLLINGSTOCK Agency

US: The 17.7 km long first section of the Skyline light metro system is launched in Honolulu. It has nine stations with platform doors. The entire line will be 30 km long and start operation in the spring of 2031.

November 2011 saw a signing of a $1.1 bln contract between the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, HART, and Ansaldo Honolulu. The manufacturer was expected to design and build 20 GoA4 four-car trains for $574 mln, test them for $167 mln, and maintain them over five years for $339 mln. A $318 mln option provided for their maintenance over five more years. Ansaldo Honolulu is a joint venture of Ansaldo and AnsaldoBreda. After acquiring both companies in 2015, Hitachi renamed their joint venture to Hitachi Rail Honolulu.

The first two cars arrived in Honolulu in March 2016, and already in May, the first four-car train was unveiled to the public. Car bodies were produced at an Italian site in Reggio di Calabria, while the final assembly was arranged at Hitachi Rail’s plant in Pittsburgh to comply with localisation requirements of the Buy American Act. Testing began in October 2017.

Four cars of each 78 m long train accommodate 800 passengers, 144 of them seated. Trains have spaces for bicycles, surfboards, wheelchairs, and luggage. 12 doors on each side and inter-car gangways make it easy for passengers to get on and off the train and move around it. The maximum operating speed is 105 km/h.

Interior of Skyline’s unmanned trains by Hitachi Rails, Honolulu Interior of Skyline’s unmanned trains by Hitachi Rails, Honolulu. Source: frozenpandaman/twitter

The construction of the light rail metro began in 2011, and the first section was expected to enter service in October 2020. However, the deadlines were postponed several times. The reasons were the COVID-19 pandemic, funding problems, and increased wear and tear of switches detected in 2020 during test runs. An investigation revealed the wheel flanges at crosspieces were 13 mm narrower which led to wear and tear of the infrastructure and adversely impacted the safety at operating speeds. Besides, 27 car bodies had unsound welds of extruded aluminium beams; later those defects were corrected.