Want Local Manufacturing? ‘No Problem’ says Alstom Train Service Experts!
When the new people mover system at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport debuted in 1993, it moved travelers between the airport’s parking lots and terminal nearly twice as fast as the shuttle buses it replaced.
Now, 20 years later, the O’Hare Airport Transit System’s (OATS) fleet of 15 automated people movers is about to receive a mid-life modernization courtesy of Alstom’s North American Transport Life Services (TLS) team.
The project is something of a first for the TLS business, which happens to be based just down the road from O’Hare International Airport in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. While TLS has a long history of successfully overhauling subway, commuter and light-rail vehicles, that activity has traditionally taken place at the company’s rail manufacturing and maintenance facilities in Hornell, New York and Mare Island, California.
“What makes this project interesting is the approach Alstom has taken in keeping the work close to our customer,” explained Tommy Apsinwall, Vice President of Alstom’s North American TLS business. “Instead of hauling the cars half-way across the country, we got creative and chose to execute the overhaul at a short-term manufacturing facility set-up just for this project.”
The search for a ‘pop-up” manufacturing site started with a hard look at the capabilities and equipment needed to overhaul the O’Hare vehicles. The vehicles themselves are relatively light, rubber-tire carriages that can be easily transport via flatbed truck, and much of the retrofit work will take place below the floor. This meant the facility needs to have a wide front door, but not the massive crane or below-floor maintenance pit typically found in rail manufacturing facilities.
Alstom’s team developed an industrial footprint plan and, together with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and a local partner, identified a facility on the Illinois-Indiana border well suited to the task.
“This is a new manufacturing approach for Alstom, but one that could work well for other customers looking to modernize relatively small fleets of people movers or even light-rail vehicles,” added Apsinwall. “Our team prides itself on being flexible enough to adapt to our customers’ needs, and we’re excited to be working on a project that will benefit riders right here in our own backyard”
In addition to the OATS overhaul, Alstom’s TLS team also is modernizing a fleet of 120 metro cars for Philadelphia’s PATCO, along with 86 light-rail vehicles and 74 bi-level commuter coaches for Boston’s MBTA.