Who Wants to Buy a New Locomotive? General Electric Hopes Amtrak Does

General Electric’s Transportation division inked a high-speed rail technology-sharing deal with China last month, but the prospects on the home front for its fuel-efficient locomotives are downright "bleak" heading into 2010, as its chief executive recently told Dow Jones.

6899.jpgSen. John McCain (R-AZ), at right, addressed GE Transportation workers in Erie, PA, last year. (Photo: NY Sun)

So even as workers at its plant in Erie, Pennsylvania, cope with large-scale layoffs, the company has adopted a new strategy: urging the federal government to approve money for new Amtrak locomotives. GE Transportation’s hope, as the local Times-News reports, is that it can win an Amtrak bid that doesn’t yet exist:

In what might have once seemed like an unusual
collaboration, company officials and its main union are making a joint
plea for Congress to include an appropriation for new locomotives.

"We have the best technology and we know the
customer requirements and believe we are best positioned," Lorenzo
Simonelli, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview Monday.

"This comes down to funding. Funding for Amtrak
for the purchase of diesel electric locomotives isn’t currently planned
for in the 2010 appropriation."

Convincing lawmakers to add funding for new Amtrak locomotives may
sound like a tall order at a time when the Obama administration is
seeking to embrace fiscal austerity, but GE has some influential allies.

Sens. Arlen Specter (D) and Bob Casey (D) joined Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper
(D-PA), who represents the Erie area, to introduce legislation in October that would offer a 30 percent tax credit for new locomotive purchases made before 2013.

addition to the economic impact," Specter said in a Senate floor speech
on the proposal, "the [bill] will also benefit the environment, as new
and newly manufactured locomotives are typically more fuel efficient
and emit fewer harmful pollutants."

Even if the Amtrak
strategy does not pan out for GE, the company’s Chinese partnership
offers an opening for new business as the U.S. gears up for its first
high-speed rail construction. The company testified
on Capitol Hill in June that its trains were prepared to meet the
administration’s goal of top speeds between 110 and 124 miles per hour.

at a time when infrastructure investment is gaining currency as a
job-creation tool, GE can point to international interest in its
cleaner-burning trains, which are hitting the railways in Egypt, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan.

  • pat

    Is GE going to be the new Big 3? Are we going to see a huge lobbying effort for trains on the scale that created auto-centric development? Hopefully this is one of those green shoots that starts it

  • Omri

    Very nice of McCain to support the GE workers who built these locomotives.
    Would be nicer, however, if he didn’t spend his senate career hampering their stateside deployment.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Passenger “service” from Amtrak and passenger equipment from any US manufacturer: a spiral of pork, patronage, non-performance around a fiscal black hole all wrapped up in a US flag with protectionism and feather bedding.

    There are people who know how to build trains that work reliably and efficiently for passenger service, and there are people who know how to operate attractive passenger train service, and there are passenger routes which makes sense to operate.

    None of these have any intersection with the catastrophe that is “Amtrak” or with GE’s (successful) US freight locomotive building business.

    Buying American passenger trains makes as much sense as buying Vanuatan cruise missiles.

  • Is it just me or does that train look about 40 years out of date? A little fresh green paint and a logo… just like new. Add some bunting and you have a winner!

  • Dismissing Amtrak as a disaster is lovely way to avoid the real issue: Amtrak is beholden to the funding that Congress gives it and it has never funding Amtrak or passenger rail well.


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