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Making Moves: a Q&A with Hornell Site Manager Mark Darrow

04/12/2012

In the hills of western New York Alstom is bringing a new wave of rail manufacturing jobs to a community that has kept U.S. railroads running for over a century.

Alstom’s U.S. rail car manufacturing site in the town of Hornell has delivered subway & commuter rail fleets to customers across the country. A new face recently took up the reigns at Alstom's Hornell site. His name is Mark Darrow, and his familiarity and knowledge of the region gives him a unique advantage in leading the restart of the Hornell facility.

We were lucky to get a few minutes of Mark's time, and asked him for a quick update on how things are progressing...here's what he had to say:

Tell us about your background, and how you feel today about taking on this new challenge of managing Alstom’s Hornell operation?

I am proud to say I am originally from the Southern Tier of Western New York State and that my first position with Alstom was at the Hornell site as site HR Director.  The majority of my professional career has been in Human Resources.  After spending 9+ years in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear operator on submarines, I studied Human Resources Management and received a bachelor’s degree from The New School in New York City and a master’s degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology.  Prior to joining Alstom I spent a good deal of time in acquisitions and start-ups. 

After holding several senior HR positions, including a 2 year stay in Paris, I’m excited to be back. The new position will provide a number of challenges and learning opportunities that I appreciate and look forward to.  It will not come without difficulties but I am ready and excited to lead the restart of Alstom’s Hornell business.

What projects are currently underway in Hornell? What signals do these projects send to the market?    

We currently are executing several projects for Alstom’s North American Train Life Services (TLS) business and I am happy to say more of these are on the way. The largest of our jobs is a $194MUSD overhaul of 120 rail cars for the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) which serves Philadelphia and communities in nearby New Jersey. This is the largest capital improvement project in the history of the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA), the agency that owns and operates PATCO.  

In addition to PATCO we have started work on the MBTA Green Line Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) overhaul.  This project gives us an opportunity to modernize a critical part of the Boston areas’ public transportation system. 

Our Hornell team is also supporting component projects including a traction project for Société de transport de Montréal (MPM-10), the building of spare propulsion blocks to support Amtrak’s High-Speed Acela overhaul and overall of 249 trucks for Acela. This variety of work is a signal to the market that Alstom has flexibility to deliver components, a brand new rail fleet, and everything in between.

Does Alstom’s presence in Hornell provide an advantage in our pursuit of new business? If so, how?

This location provides a major advantage for Alstom.  First, this community and its skilled workforce have a 100+ year ‘legacy’ of rail manufacturing know how. Rail is in the DNA here. Over time this site has adjusted to the needs and challenges of the industry and as a result today we are capable of building state of the art rail vehicles.

...this community and its skilled workforce have a 100+ year legacy rail manufacturing know-how. Rail is in the DNA here...

Alstom’s investments in the facility also provide us a major advantage. We operate the largest rail manufacturing facility in the U.S., and its size allows us to execute multiple projects at any given time. This means that new car builds, testing, fleet modernizations, component work, fleet/vehicle repairs and aftermarket can occur simultaneously under one roof.  This enables Alstom to satisfy customers’ diverse needs regardless of the size or scope of the projects.

There has been a lot of buzz lately around ‘fleet modernization’ projects. Can you explain what these projects entail, and why they are so relevant to today’s market?

In a nutshell, fleet modernization means taking old rail cars that have been in service for 20+ years and making them look, feel and operate like brand new vehicles.   By using new and refurbished existing parts we are able to upgrade the trains with modern components.

The process involves removing old vehicle components down to the car shell and replacing them with new modern ones. Modernization is an economical way for customers to provide a modern transportation experience for riders without purchasing a new fleet.