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California's Sprinter Trains

August 13, 2014

Transit riders in Southern California could be forgiven for thinking they were spending their morning commute in Europe. On 22 miles between Escondido and Oceanside, Siemens-built Sprinter trains deliver world-class service to over 7,500 weekday riders.

Due to federal regulations, these more advanced European-designed trains are not normally seen in the United States. In this case, a special deal with the local freight railroads has made it possible separate traffic and introduce the Sprinters. On this line, freights only run at night while the commuter trains run during the day. The stations are fitted with specially-designed platform extenders, which allow for level boarding. At night the extenders are pulled back to give freight trains enough room to pass through.

The Sprinter trains represent a major improvement over standard American commuter equipment. The DMU’s are lighter than traditional locomotive-powered trains. Lighter trains allow for faster acceleration and braking, which means shorter travel times in crowded urban areas. They also use less fuel and put less wear on the tracks. Additionally, the Sprinter’s level boarding improves accessibility and reduces boarding times. 

The Sprinters are part of Siemens worldwide family of Desiro trains, which operate in over a dozen countries in Europe, Asia and North America. The Desiro’s are usually employed on commuter and regional routes, though they can be outfitted for long-distance service. Their spacious interiors, large luggage racks and climate-controlled pathways between cars allow for a comfortable ride no matter how long the journey. They can be outfitted as EMU’s or DMU’s depending on the operator’s needs.

Siemen’s Desiro trains – and other similar EMU and DMU trains – would be a great addition to rail lines across America. With the FRA reconsidering its regulations, they could be seen in the near future. In the meantime it will take clever approaches, like in Southern California, to bring Desiro trains to America. 

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