Ansaldo Breda at This Weekend’s So.CA.TA. Meeting

4_30_09_breda.jpgPhoto of the Ansaldo Breda plant in Pittsburg, CA via  Delta Projects International

This Saturday, the Southern California Transit Adovates will host Fabio Ficano of Ansaldo Breda, the rail car company in the middle of the controversy about who will supply rail cars for future the expansion of the Gold Line.

After Streetsblog reported on the controversy in our review of the last Metro Board meeting, Ficano and several Streetsblog commenters had a spirited discussion over several of the issues surrounding Ansaldo Breda and the company’s current obligations to Metro.  I don’t want to rehash those arguments, but they call can be read here.

You can continue that discussion in person at So.CA.TA.’s monthly meeting this weekend, which is open to the public.  The meeting will begin at 1:00 P.M. at the Angelus Plaza
4th Floor Community Room, 255 S. Hill Street in
Downtown L.A.  For transit directions to the meeting, check out So.CA.TA’s  website.

  • Damien, thanks for the shout out. It was Ficano’s comments on this blog about meeting the rail using public that prompted our inviting him to speak. We’re going to use a moderated format, with questions submitted on index cards.

    Location has great transit access (including a subway station exit just one block south on Hill at 4th St.). If you want to grab lunch beforehand the Grand Central Market has many options and is basically catty-corner from Angelus Plaza. There is a mini market off the lobby of the complex that sells snacks etc. We try to start promptly at 1 p.m., and the room is right off the bank of elevators.

    The speaker slot is circa 1 p.m. until about 2:15 p.m. Then after a short break we’ll have the regular monthly Transit Advocates meeting. Unless the speaker q&a runs over (that happened last month w/Bruce Shelburne of Metro Rail since we had a lot of questions for him).

    Members of the public are welcome to attend the SO.CA.TA meeting as well. Some of the regulars on this blog have made condescending or accusatory comments about our group. Anyone familiar at all with the realities of community activism would find it comical anyone would treat it of consequence that our members have at times at public meetings been a bit buffoonish or that our meetings at times can be chaotic, filled with vigorous debate, etc. We are the longest lasting active transit advocacy group in the region–with a small budget and all volunteers we have kept at it for 20 years. We are a non profit 501(c)(4), registered with the state of California and very transparent as to governance etc. We both advocate and engage in education. Our most recent target has been Metro’s dual hub, and there are signs our questioning has had some results since this has now been delayed until at least December to deal with issues including those we raised.

    So we’ll see what happens Saturday.

  • Erik

    From the previous thread there are some points made by the AnsaldoBreda spokesman I’d love to have answered at the meeting:

    2) We did fly two vehicles to L.A. in order to be punctual. This should be the ultimate evidence that we take our commitment to the Authority very seriously;

    Erik asks:

    Where were these cars flown from? Italy? Why were they not made in the USA? How are these cars behaving compared to their USA-built siblings?


    4) In Denmark the vehicles were supposed to be delivered in 2006, the amount of the bid was 5 billion DKK and not US dollars and the rail authority already has 8 trains in its possession;

    Erik responds and asks:

    You are right, it was 5 billion Danish Crowns which is just under US$1 Billion and that is still a big contract; over 3 times the Metro contract. Except that was 5 Billion 1999 Danish Crowns, not 2009 Danish Crowns. And they were supposed to be delivered first in 2003 and COMPLETED in 2006. Only THREE of the 83 transets are in service, the rest are in testing; only ONE can be assuredly scheduled each day.

    There are now more than 8 IC4 trainsets in Denmark, mostly still not transferred to DSB, but not all have motors and only two can couple with each other.

    The sole issue in Denmark today that the Danish Social Democrats (Left) and the Danish People’s Party (Far Right) can agree on these days is that the IC4 contract has taken absolutely too long. Congratulations to AnsaldoBreda for creating political unity in a diverse multi-party nation.

    Will AnsaldoBreda be able to survive as a company if this contract is torn up at the end of May 2009?

    5) In Boston, I can assure you that our relationship with the MBTA is sound and certainly far from having us banned to participate in future bids. I would welcome documents that prove the contrary;

    Erik responds and asks: Funny, AB did not get the contract for the Blue Line cars even though AB was the lowest bid. How come Siemens got that job?


    6) The Oslo is not an AnsaldoBreda contract. This contract was signed by Firema Locomotive Ansaldo not AnsaldoBreda, different name, different company;

    Erik responds: Predecessor company, not different company; all part of the big happy Finmeccanica family now:

    The Oslo SL95 Trams (light rail vehicles in American-ese) were delivered by the Italian company Ansaldo/Firema, which is now Ansaldobreda.


    7) The high Speed train from Brussels to Amsterdam is currently being tested in Czech Republic because the line between Brussels and Amsterdam is not ready. No train could be delivered (AB or other) until the line is completed;

    Erik responds:

    Which came first? The Railway or the Trainset? Both are delayed. If the trainset was ready, it could be in service on the conventional lines.

    UPDATE: AnsaldoBreda has delivered the first trainset in the past week, even though the line is not ready yet. The Albatros, now nicknamed the “Dodo-Albatros” by the Dutch press, is two years late.


    8) The Gothenburg, Sweden contract will be completed in 2009 and we are currently negotiating with the Customer more option vehicles;

    Erik responds and asks: The Gothenburg contract was supposed to be FINISHED in the fall of 2005. Remember, Los Angeles is a new and growing system. We are not replacing a fleet, we are growing it! Unlike Boston, Oslo, Gothenburg and the Danish State Railways, who have an in-place network and have an existing fleet, we in L.A. do not have excess amounts of older cars to run while we wait for new ones to arrive. We need these new cars to begin the service. What will AB do to assist LACMTA(Metro) in finding a loaner fleet if deliveries are delayed?


    9) Copenhagen is by far one of the most incredible vehicles in the world. The whole city proudly regards it as an icon of modernity and state of the art. Its performance encouraged other cities, such as Taipei and Honolulu to use the driverless technology as their preferred approach to modern transportation;

    Erik responds and asks:

    You are referring to the driverless Metro which opened in 2002. Yes it has been a success. But why is Ansaldo losing the operating contract which it had since opening, now?


    10) You have to look for a success story to find one where the Train sector is concerned, because bad news stories sell better than good news stories. For AnsaldoBreda there are numerous success stories from the cities mentioned above, including LACMTA – online and offline – which we are of course happy to share with those interested;

    Erik responds:

    Please do, because I can’t find any!!


    11) If you were to commission an unbiased third party to build a competitive matrix of the worlds best train makers, you would find that our performance meets and exceeds that of almost all of these with regards to performance, safety, quality control, innovation and on-time delivery. You would also find that we have no record of safety-related law suits or corruption with public officials – something not all of our competitors can claim;

    Erik responds:

    How can anyone sue AnsaldoBreda over safety if the trains never run or never show up? Please do cite AB’s on-time record over the past ten years!


    12) We, as well as our competitors, have well organized facilities that satisfy our industrial needs. Our intention to build and operate a state of the art facility in Los Angeles County would be the result of a growing need to produce and consign new rail cars in this geographical area. I’m not sure I understand your reasoning for defying entirely the goal of Prop “R”, which is to create new jobs in Los Angeles related to transportation. By giving preference to all of the other rail manufacturers you mention, the money (from LA county taxpayers) will be leaving the county, or state;

    Erik responds:

    Propostion R will create guideway construction jobs and operations jobs. Where the cars are made was not a factor in the vote. And those operations jobs will not exist if there aren’t any cars to run. I want Metro to buy the best vehicles at the best price, not just vehicles made down the street. L.A. Metro buys many things from outside the county, outside the state. By your logic, L.A. Metro should build their cars themselves, which is actually what New Orleans does.


    13) We do not have “fly-by-night” facilities. Our skilled colleagues are paid well beyond the average in this industry which in any case pays multipliers of the minimum wage + health benefits + pension plan + above the average vacation time;

    Erik resonds and asks:

    Really? Then how many people are you employing in Issaquah, Washington today?? Or why did you move the AnsaldoBreda assembly plant out of San Francisco county to Pittsburg, CA?

    Be careful what you claim, because the ATU local in Seattle was not happy when they found out the wages Breda paid to workers who were assembling the Duo Buses in the early 1990’s.

    (which segways nicely to)

    14) Since the buses in Seattle were built something like 25 years ago, when I was barely a teenager, I don’t have all the data handy, but if the board feels that that contract has relevance to today’s options, I would be more than happy to inquire our company’s archive and get that information;

    Erik responds:

    Please do, because when I find it, it is not going to stay on my desk very long.


  • Interurbans

    Thanks Eric for thoughtful questions to the people at Breda. I have a few additional questions that I would like asked to Breda this Saturday

    I understand that the LACMTA is having a great deal of problems with their Breda Heavy Rail Cars do to poor design and workmanship. How do the Breda cars stack up service wise compared to Miami, Washington DC, New York and other cities that have similar cars from other manufactures.

    With the late delivery of Breda LRT cars why the “bate and switch” with the excessive weight and the inability to couple with the current LRT fleet? This is a change from Breda that the MTA “accepted”, why?

    Boston is having major problems with Breda cars do to derailing which their current cars have no problems in this respect. I understand that Boston is also having problems do to poor fit and workmanship is this true?

    San Francisco had to rebuild their entire rail network to accommodate their Breda cars. Their Breda cars are also overweight and troublesome. The only reason they bought additional Breda cars was to have a compatible fleet, not because they were happy with the quality of the cars. The same goes for Boston.

    I would think for an order of 100 plus cars the car builders would and could assemble the cars in Los Angeles. Will Breda actually assemble the cars in Los Angeles or will they “bate and switch” again after they get the order?

    This is a question for all of us not just Breda.

    I ask 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 119 cars makes little sense. Every city in the US and most world wide that has bought Breda cars or busses has had major problems including Cleveland, San Francisco and Boston that 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 the MTA wants to order another 119 substandard troublesome cars on top of the first 50. If the order goes to Breda, 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 will cost more. Breda makes up on the low bid by supplying parts to fix their bad cars. Again I ask “why is the MTA considering buying an additional 119 inferior, poor quality cars when there are so many 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 119 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.


  • Fabio Ficano

    Dear Erik,

    let me address your points and concernes:

    2) the first two prototypes are always entirely built abroad. The other 48 were built in Italy with the final assembly done in the US. They couple just fine, just because they are the same cars with identical design.

    4) I’m sorry to inform you that you are wrong, again. We have successfully delivered 14 vehicles and we have built the entire fleet and we are waiting for commissioning.

    5) We were baffled too when we learned that the Boston Authority picked the most expensive car builder. Ask them.

    6) Let me state that again: “Ansaldo/Firema is NOT AnsaldoBreda” and Firema is NOT a Finmeccanica Company… Pepsi Cola is NOT a Coca Cola Company.

    7) What you say is probably valid for scooters and cars, not for High Speed Trains. They MUST be homologated together. Together they are ONE SYSTEM.

    8) Sorry Erik, neither I nor any of my colleagues understand your point. Please articulate it

    9) AnsaldoBreda is not in the rail operations business. We just did the start up because it was part of the contract requirements.

    10) Copenhagen, as you Eric have acknowledged……and the cities mentioned below

    11) We have San Francisco, Washington and Los Angeles just to name a few. Unfortunately the nature of our industry rarely allows to be on time, in fact, we are having hard time to find the same success stories in any of our competitors record. I’m sure there are. Please, do share those with us.

    12) Agreed. By the same logic, though, LAX should build it own airplanes.

    13) ZERO! We closed the facility at the natural end of the contract which happened many years ago. The reason why we moved our final assembly plant out of San Francisco was because the landlord did not renew the lease. They wanted to open restaurants in that location.

    14) I don’t know if you are aware that we are not in the bus business.

    Thanks for your attention,
    Fabio Ficano

  • Fabio Ficano


    I am sure I read somewhere in the blogsphere other bloggers answer your questions in the same fashion you asked them.
    Personally I disapprove this line of conduct coming from a company or an individual hence my decision not to dignify it with a reply.
    This time will be no exception.

    Fabio Ficano

  • Erik


    Firema appears to be a separate company. But when you look at their specs sheet regarding the Oslo SL95 tram, it states clearly:

    “The low floor tram SL95 has been designed by FIREMA for the Oslo urban railway, in
    cooperation with Ansaldo;”

    Interestingly, many of Firema’s other products spec sheets have similar wording, such as:

    “The new six-car dual-voltage train for “Metropolitana Milanese” (Milan underground) belongs
    to the “MNG” (“Metropolitana di Nuova Generazione”) family and is named “Meneghino”.
    The MNG has been designed and manufactured in cooperation with Ansaldo Breda.”


    “The tram T69 has been designed by FIREMA for the Birmingham urban railway, developed and
    built in cooperation with Ansaldo;”


    “The train set ALFA3 is used as a public transportation service on the “Ferrovie Cumana e
    Circumflegrea” (managed by SEPSA) and has been manufactured in cooperation with Ansaldo


    “The new electrical multiple units with narrow gauge for the “Ferrovia Circumvesuviana”,
    designed and manufactured in cooperation with AnsaldoBreda,”

    and then this one

    “The E.403 locomotives have been designed and manufactured in cooperation with AnsaldoBreda;”

    So, my apologies, but it sure looks like Firema and AnsaldoBreda have a long and large record of working together.

  • So, anyone that went to the meeting have an update?

  • Damien, since you asked: Mr. Fiano and his associates* made a presentation that lasted about an hour. That was followed by about 30 minutes of questions. They had both specific responses to various issues and blanket excuses of the realpolitik/industry practice variety. I had a sort of verbal tussle at the end about mid-life rebuilds of rail cars, when I felt some Metro Board reports were being used in a mis-leading way. Plus some condescending attitudes seeming to lurk in their demeanor.

    We are trying to get a copy of the power point and post it on our website. I’ll let you know if we are able to do that.

    I appreciated their speaking to us. But I still have reservations about the whole thing. Turn out was fair–about 25 Transit Advocate members plus 5-10 members of the public. Next month we have Richard Hunt of Metro speaking on new bus technology.

    * Ficano was joined by Breda’s VP for operations (a tech guy), two gentleman taping the whole thing and some guy who is a consultant for the Labor Fed who are pushing the deal because of the rail car plant proposal and some promises favorable to organized labor Breda has made.


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