Caltrain's new electric fleet faces significant pandemic delays

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Caltrain’s long delayed electrification project has faced another setback, this time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Caltrain’s chief officer John Fungi is in charge of the rail line’s effort to replace its diesel trains with an all-electric fleet. But he informed the board Thursday that the delivery of the first seven-car train has now been delayed by four months because of an outbreak of COVID-19 at the manufacturing facility in Salt Lake City.

The facility is owned by the Swiss company Stadler. About 30 of the company’s employees have tested positive for the virus.

“Stadler has responded by closing down access to any outsider to their facility,” said Fungi.

And there’s more. “We’ve had two suppliers that essentially went belly up related to COVID-19,” he said.

The $2 billion electrification project, set for delivery in 2022, is also close to $3 million over budget.

Board member Cindy Chavez of Santa Clara County fears there will be more pandemic issues and suggested that Stadler increase its testing.

“Because if they do that, then it’s going to be less likely that the factory gets shut down,” she said, because outbreak can be caught before they spread out of control.

Stadler has also been struggling to obtain travel visas to the US for its European testing engineers because of the pandemic.