AnsaldoBreda Problems Aren't in Los Angeles Alone

Denmark developing backup plan in case Italian rail manufacturer can’t get its act together

I reported yesterday on Los Angeles’ problems with the light rail manufacturer it chose for its Gold Line Eastside Extension. Namely, the contractor, the Italian AnsaldoBreda, which also produced the city’s heavy rail cars in the early 1990s, is more than three years late on delivering the trains it promised. Los Angeles holds an option to purchase 100 more cars at a reduced rate, but Metro’s chief argues that the order for new vehicles should be put up to competitive bid. AnsaldoBreda’s response? An offer to build a manufacturing facility in L.A., and a willingness to move its headquarters there. The problem? It has made the same offer to at least two other cities already. Facio Ficano, director of government affairs for the company, responded to criticism in the L.A. Times.

But Erik Griswold pointed me to some evidence that L.A.’s experience isn’t isolated. Denmark ordered 83 trains from AnsaldoBreda in 2003; the trains were supposed to be fully operational by 2006. And yet the company hasn’t been able to fulfill its obligations. Only eight of the trains have been delivered, and according to the Copenhagen Post, “only three are operational, and all still have problems.” The national rail company is likely to have to cancel the contract (and lose lots of money) unless AnsaldoBreda can manage to put together at least 14 vehicles by May.

I’d also like to note that back in 2005, the Washington Post reported extensively on problems with Washington Metro Breda vehicles. To put it bluntly, the company’s trains were significantly more likely to break down than those of other manufacturers in the fleet. Commenter martarider said in response to the last article that the Breda cars in Atlanta “are lemons… [and] have been plagued with problems.” The Boston Globe reported in 2007 that Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority “officials have fumed over the years that it was their worst purchase ever,” refering to a 1995 contract with AnsaldoBreda.

This company is making a bad name for itself. Transit agencies should stop buying their vehicles.

27 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Kyle - Boston

    Although I don’t mind the look of the Green Line AnsaldoBreda, I think they are good looking street cars, the maintenance problems are pretty bad, from what I have heard. I don’t commute on the green line, so I can’t really say, but the actual interior is pretty nice. Too bad these things couldn’t have been built a little better. I think the T is doing a pretty good job though, to keep these things running.

  • Erik

    The cars can be as pretty as you want, but if they don’t transport you, what good are they?

  • BLambert

    Well, you can be not transported *in style*

  • Maclondon

    Ansaldo/Breda has been causing problems across Europe – they are supplying new trains for the Netherland High Speed line (HSL-Zuid) which were supposed to have been delivered in 2006 but have yet to see the light of day (partly due to problems with the new ETRMS signalling system) As a result, high speed rail services are now 2 years late!

    Most European rail operators will not touch Ansaldo.Breda equipment – in fact they are unlikely to meet pre qualification to bid for work given their recent appalling track record.

  • Kyle - Boston

    The point is, although the street cars weren’t built up to standards, the T is apparently doing a decent job keeping them running.

  • Erik

    Minor correction about Denmark’s IC4: The trains were ordered in 2000, not 2003. But they still are not delivered. Also, the three sets that are operating still cannot couple to one another so any scheduled run operating IC4 today (only one) can only offer 4 cars, not the 8 or 12 or 16 or 20 that the Danish State Railways (DSB) had planned for.

  • Interurbans

    Why did the MTA select the first 50 Breda cars in the first place? Considering theirs and other transit systems experience, why are they consider buying an additional 100 cars makes little sense. Every city in the US and most world wide that has bought Breda cars has had major problems including Cleveland, San Francisco and Boston have had to spend millions to rework their systems to accommodate the Breda cars. Do to the poor fit, trim, and a poor level of manufacturing and design the cars continue to be very expensive to operate and keep running. The Los Angeles Red/Purple line cars can also be counted on this list. The MTA has had from the start major problems keeping enough cars running to fulfill the required schedules. With this background and the knowledge in the transit industry of just how bad Breda cars are, how could the MTA even consider Breda as a candidate for bid let alone actually select them to supply their cars. Now they want to order another 100 substandard troublesome cars on top of the first 50. How many years will the MTA and the train riders of Los Angeles have to live with poor quality cars before they will have a chance to replace them with a quality product from the many quality LRT car providers world wide? Breda may have the low bid but after the change orders and problems even before the cars go into service they cost more. Again I ask “why is the MTA considering buying an additional 100 inferior, poor quality cars when there are so many less expensive good quality cars to choose from?” So who is going to win, Breda and their lobbyist or the train riders and the people who will be paying for the cars? Don’t you think other car manufactures would not locate their plant in Los Angeles for a 100 car order? Simians had an assembly plant near the Blue Line shops used to assemble the P2000 cars now running on the Green and Gold Lines.

  • Ron

    Well…. better Breda than Siemens!
    Siemens has a terrible record basically everywhere, with serious safety issues on their log. If this wasn’t enough, they have a long standing tradition in bribing public officials and rail people and get contracts cutting out the middle man (lobbyists).
    Do you want an example? Mike Cannell, General Manager of the Rail Operation, same guy that wants to kick Breda out of LA and bring back Siemens, has a son, YES a son, that actually works for Siemens !!! Coincidence? Maybe.
    Do you want another coincidence? Well, here it is: looks like that Mr. Cannell has previously worked for three other rail authorities that “suddenly” decided to get rid of their rail manufacturer and grant contract to Siemens instead.
    Lucky company to have him and some good journalists work for them.

  • Scott

    This article did not mention that Breda is also in hot water in the Netherlands. They have not been able to produce the promised high speed rail trains anywhere near schedule and the one train that was delivered is a lemon.

    In general, Breda cars are terrible and do not compare to those of other companies. Anyone who thinks that they produce a better rail car than Seimens or Alstom is either a schill or high. The crappy heavy rail cars in LA and Washington don’t compare to the new cars in Munich or Stockholm and the company has trouble providing any light rail cars as designed or on schedule. This company is the joke of the industry and you don’t need to take the word of some guy posting, just do a little research…it’s all there for you to see. We can’t gamble the future of the reason on 600 promised 20th Century blue collar jobs. That ship has sailed.

  • TDW

    Buffalo, NY can be added to the list of cities that has a problem with Breda. They began a rehab project on our light rail vehicles back in 2006 and to date have not produced the 4 pilot cars. The reason- they state because a plant closed. So, when I saw pictures of what has been done, it came down to basically nothing. The body shells have been stripped but nothing on the interior, nothing over 3 years so far. The project was supposed to be finished in late 2009 or early 2010. Yet, our NFTA (the agency that runs Metro) claimed they had the best “overall value” compared to Bombardier or CAF, which both have plants closer than what Breda was using.

    How many cars are to be rebuilt by Breda in this project? 27. Yes, 27! And they still have not completed the first 4 cars.

    So what has Breda done so far? They are offering to set up a plant in Schenectady, NY which is about 4 hours from Buffalo but say a deal is “far from done.” Yet, CAF, Alstom, and Bombardier all have plants anywhere from 1-3 hours away and could have had the work done quicker.

    In the meantime, Washington, which was a huge Breda city for years has now ditched them too. The 5000 series cars (192 built) were built by CAF and the 6000 cars (184 built) as well as the 2000 and 3000 series Breda cars (364 cars rehabbed) were done by Alstom. All of these cars did have some initial bugs but are now running really well and exceeding the expectations for the entire fleet. Breda lost both of these contracts on technical merit and best overall value for the authority.

    The 4000 series Breda cars for Washington will be rebuilt at the same time as the new 7000 series cars which the builder is yet to be determined. However, news leaked out is showing Alstom as 1 of the 3 finalists. There is some speculation that Bombardier and Kawasaki may be in the list of final 3 as well.

    Word to the wise- do not use Breda…ever.

  • Ridoca

    And yet…. AnsaldoBreda has been awarded another contract from Goteborg in Sweden for another set of its Sirio Trams ( apparently they were happy with the products). On another note, the AnsaldoBreda built automatic metro in Copenhagen was awarded Best metro in the world this year.

    I also know for a fact that the Danish IC4 cars have been sitting in the manufacurer’s parking lot for 3 years waiting to be accepted. Apparently, when the Brits were accepting their cars they sent over 80 technicians for the handover, whereas the danes sent only 4… As it turns out, most of the delays have been caused by the Danes not committing to a fial Software version, which means that AB couldn’t close the development cycle and enter final production and delivery.

    just saying, it’s all too easy to point the finger, but reality is that every single manufacturer ( Siemens and Alstom in particular) are always plagued bt late deliveries, bribes and quality issues

  • Max Wyss

    It seems that AnsaldoBreda is great at winning tenders, which is an art of itself (essentially balance the shortcomings of the product with the price that you can beat the “better” products).

    However, as it has been said before, there are customers of AB which are apparently happy.

    Although I now wonder how the cooperation with Stadler for some Italian regional operators will come out, where AB is providing intermediate sections and the commissioning (and Stadler the end sections and the traction equipment).

    In another post, Siemens was mentioned… They did handle the Combino desaster relatively well, and their new light rail product (presented at the last Innotrans) looks promising. And, Siemens has a bunch of happy customers as well.

    Otherwise, any major supplier has some projects which went wrong, and in some cases, it is not really their direct fault (the mentioned problems with ERTMS (and its approval) in the Netherlands, or the customer being not specific enough in the specifications, etc.)

  • TDW

    Update on the AnsaldoBreda Buffalo project- AnsaldoBreda is no longer doing any of the rehab work on these cars. They contracted all of that to Grey Manufacturing Industries out of Hornell, NY and Breda is now just handling the financial and contractural issues. The first pilot cars are now expected around June 2009 and delivery would continue at around 1 car per month.

    I wonder why they did not look at Alstom next door which does 1 car per day for the NYC project.

    With the LA rebid coming, I would suggest for the MTA to look at Kawasaki, Bombardier or Alstom. Alstom has had delivery issues in the past but their cars and rehabs for Washington, DC are the most reliable in their fleet. They also do a very good job worldwide. Bombardier produces excellent cars as well and Kawasaki has an excellent reputation for quality.

    By the way, Washington, DC gave Breda the cold shoulder again. For their 7000 series cars coming online around 2012-2013, Breda did not even meet the prequalifications. It eventually came down to Alstom, Bombardier, and Kawasaki, which Kawasaki won that contract with a potential of over 700 cars.

  • Henrik

    A small update to what Erik posted on 28 March 2009:

    “Also, the three sets that are operating still cannot couple to one another.”

    They recently have tested coupling two sets, so it only took them about a year and a half to get this far.

  • Ola

    Gothenburg, Sweden, can also be added to the list. The new trams the city ordered from AB have had quite a few problems.

  • bill

    I worked with ansaldobreda and was told to patch them up even after they were shipped knowing they were defective from the factory so they could be sold and then let the warranty department worry about it even though there were roughly 400 man hours of work to get them working properly and even then they still didn’t work.

  • TDW

    Update on the Breda LRV project in Buffalo. In March 2012, the first 2 cars were finally introduced back to the system, 6 years after the project was announced. This included a full year of testing on the systems due to various compatibility issues and a safety log that needed to be resolved.

    The time frame now to complete the remaining 25 cars is 3 years. That means this project will not be completed until 2015, which is 9 years after the contract was signed.

    Also, Breda now moved work again for the third time. This time, it’s from Elmira, NY to the former Foster-Wheeler plant in Dansville, NY and has taken over work from Gray Manufacturing Industries, which was the subcontractor.

    In contrast, Alstom Transportation which has their manufacturing facility in Hornell, NY was producing 40 cars per month during the R160 contract for New York City.

    • Nathanael

      Yeow. Breda really does have a bad rep. Bombardier, Alstom, Siemens, Kawasaki, CAF, Talgo,… none of their cars have these reliability problems.

      Heck, even Skoda has a better reputation, and they don’t have a great reputation.

  • Albert

    New problems with AnsaldoBreda trains in the Netherlands and Belgium. Driving ban in belgium

  • R. Rijs

    AB orders by the Netherlands and Belgium are now frozen. Trains have caused so much trouble since introduction on December 1st that even Belgian parliament is asking questions. Both countries talk of giving up the whole AB order. Belgian regulator suspended all Fyra trains because of safety concerns. Are other brands better? Siemens has a bad reputation for bribery. Siemens sold lots of stuff with the help of corrupt regimes in lesser developed countries. And so did ABB. We think of Germany as a country with a high degree of integrity. I worked there during one year. Forget that image. Corruption is wide spread (google and you”lll be surprised). Another problem with Siemens is its bad reputation concerning its softwares. Anyone remembering the Siemens cellulars? Rubbish, they even had to give up that market.

  • P-O Eriksson

    In Gothenburg now 38 of the 40 Sirio trams from the citys first order are out of traffic due to severe problems with rust.

  • borsjea

    31 may 2013, The Belgian railway company announced the annulment of the contract with AnsaldoBreda, after a scathing technical report from the engineers that examined the problems with the V250 trains. One of the investigated trains earned 2019 penalty points in the analysis, whereas it would already have been rejected at 10. The report mentioned, amongst others, following defects:[25][26]
    During a test run, an iron plate of the roof bent towards the overhead wire.
    Axles were severely rusted, with a risk of breaking in moving trains.[27]
    The brakes were not suited for high-speed trains.
    Wiring was not shielded from rain and snow.
    A bottom plate came loose and fell down on the rails.
    Batteries overheated in carriages that had been already taken out of service, resulting in fire and subsequent scorches in the carriages.
    Earthing points were wrongly connected.
    The door sliding mechanisms were faulty. (AnsaldoBreda proposed solving this problem with Velcro strips.)
    Assembly varied from train to train.

  • Mark B

    Birmingham UK is another unhappy AnsaldoBreda customer, they purchased 16 trams in 1998, they are going to be replaced with new CAF trams in the next year or so. The transport authority has publicly described them as ‘crap’ and with wiring that ‘resembled plates of spaghetti’, also to their horror they discovered that no two trams have the same wiring or component layout, each is unique!

  • TDW

    More problems for AnsaldoBreda. This time, Washington has decided to scrap the 4000 series cars built between 1991-1994. Taking its place are the new 7000 series Kawasaki cars. Keep in mind, WMATA was one of Breda’s largest customers between 1980-1995, having ordered 2000, 3000, and 4000 series trains.

    Due to reliability issues, the 2000 and 3000 series trains were rebuilt by Alstom and have performed much better since.

    However, the 4000 series is much worse. They have less than stellar ratings for Mean Time Between Failure (approximately 29,951 miles between breakdowns on the 4000 series) which is the lowest in their entire 1,000+ car fleet.

    In contrast, the Alstom rebuilt Breda 2000/3000 series cars and new Alstom 6000 series cars travel between 60,000 to more than 80,000 miles between failure.

    Breda reliability link: http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/scorecard/documents/Vital_Signs_May_2013_Accessible(Q1).pdf

    WMATA replacing 4000 series cars link: http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/north-america/washington-metro-orders-more-kawasaki-trains.html

    As for the Buffalo LRV rebuild project, the NFTA is actually rethinking the whole contract with AnsaldoBreda. In fact, they are thinking that AB should be responsible for over $24 million in performance bond penalties.

    Buffalo LRV link: http://www.buffalonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130325/CITYANDREGION/130329376/1010

  • John De Brabander

    As of 2 weeks ago the Danish have started stipping & rebuilding the AB-trains themselves,rather then wait for the company to respond.
    The V250 ‘Fyra’ for Belgium/Dutch railways are becoming a legal battle where AB is trying to put the blame for the trains failure on the Dutch/Belgium operators. Due to legal measures there currently trying to get compensation,apology and forcing both companies to take the yet to build trains.

    A judge in the Netherlands has already rejected the case from AB but a judge in Italy last month judged that the company AB was right. The judge in Italy ordered a freeze of the funds of the Belgiums SCNB (these funds were guarantees that were to be paid back to SNCB in case of failure or annulment of contract)

    The company is also trying both political (via Italy’s PM) & economical ways (claiming over 40.000 jobs might be lost in Italy) to make Belgium & the Netherlands reconsider the decision to cancel the contract.

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