Next Generation Bi-Level Passenger Rail Car
The Next Generation Bi-Level Passenger Rail Car was a fleet of bilevel railroad passenger cars to be constructed by  Sumitomo and Nippon Sharyo for use on various Amtrak routes in the United States. The cars were designed by the Next Generation Corridor Equipment Pool Committee (NGCE) under the provisions of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. The cars were intended to replace single-level Amfleet and Horizon cars in the Midwest and supplement the bilevel Surfliner and California cars in California. The contract was awarded to Sumitomo/Nippon Sharyo in 2012 with delivery scheduled for 2015–2018. A buff strength (compression) test failure in August 2015 delayed delivery indefinitely. Siemens replaced Nippon Sharyo as subcontractor in late 2017; under the new contract single-level cars will be delivered instead of the bilevel design.

The Next Generation Bi-Level Passenger Rail Car is the third generation of a design which began with the California Car, which entered service in 1996. The California Car was itself a derivative of Amtrak's successful Superliner long-distance coach, which entered service in 1979. An improved version of the California Car, the Surfliner, entered service in 2000. Caltrans and Amtrak began drafting the specification for a third generation of the design in 2006. This specification, dubbed "Corridor Car for the 21st Century" or C21, became the basis for the design work undertaken by the NGCE beginning in 2009.

The specification encompassed three car types: a standard coach, a combination cab-baggage car, and a cafe-lounge car. All three types would measure 16 feet 2 inches (4.93 m) high, 85 feet (26 m) long, and 10 feet 6 inches (3.20 m) wide. The cars are designed for low-level boarding only; the distance from the rail to the bottom step is 18 inches (460 mm).

The coach would seat a maximum of 89 passengers, most of them on the upper level. Seating would be 2×2, with some table seating provided. Stairs at both ends of the car provided access between levels. There would be restrooms on both levels, and a bicycle rack on the lower level. The cab-baggage design would have capacity for 15 fewer passengers, with much of the lower level seating given over to checked baggage storage. The cafe-lounge would have a single staircase at one end. The galley would be located centrally on the upper level. The car would have some passenger seating, but most space would be used for lounge seating.

Caltrans, on behalf of the state coalition (California, Michigan, Missouri and Illinois), issued a request for proposal (RFP) for building cars to the new bilevel specification in April 2012. Five companies submitted final proposals: Alstom,  Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF), Kawasaki, Siemens, and Sumitomo. Caltrans awarded the contract to Sumitomo in November 2012. Sumitomo, in turn, selected Nippon Sharyo as the car builder for the order. The contract was for 130 cars, valued at $352 million. Eighty-eight of the cars were for the Midwestern states and 42 for California. Delivery of the new cars was scheduled for 2015–2018. The 88 Midwestern cars were funded by a $220 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) grant which, by law, had to be spent by September 30, 2017.

This ambitious schedule proved untenable. By May 2015 Caltrans acknowledged that the project was fourteen months behind schedule and replaced much of its project management team. The project slipped further that August when the new car shell failed a buff strength compression test. This failure forced a complete redesign of the car, delaying the project by at least two years. This would place delivery beyond the expiration of the ARRA funds. In November 2017 Caltrans announced that Siemens would replace Nippon Sharyo as subcontractor. Under a new contract, valued at $371 million, Siemens would deliver 137 single-level cars instead of bilevel cars.

See also:

Amtrak California

Rail Passenger Cars

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The first-generation California Car entered service in 1996 on various routes in California.
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Artist's rendering of the bilevel railcar.

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The first-generation California Car entered service in 1996 on various routes in California.

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