SMART passenger seating fails initial safety test

The passenger seats for Sonoma and Marin counties' commute rail system failed a crash-worthiness test last week, officials said Tuesday.

The manufacturer and Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District officials said the seats will be redesigned, but that should not delay delivery of the first two-car set by the end of this year.

"Whatever needs to be done will be corrected," said Gene Germaine, director of business development for Kustom Seating Unlimited of Bellwood, Ill. "As it stands, there is no delay in the normal process in developing the product and testing it and having it signed off and meeting the requirements."

Lisa Cobb, SMART's vehicle and systems manager, said she was surprised by the test failure, but isn't concerned.

"There is always usually one thing or another that doesn't go according to plan when you are rolling out a new car design," Cobb said. "That is one reason we require these tests. Often-times something doesn't go right; you fix it and you move on."

Nippon Sharyo USA will assemble the trains, called Diesel Multiple Units, at its plant in Rochelle, Ill.

The vehicles, designed specifically for SMART, are slope-nosed and self-propelled by diesel engines. They run in pairs, with the ability to put a third, non-powered car in the middle for extra passenger capacity.

The trains will have engines that will meet new federal standards for emissions, which take effect in 2014, and for crash-worthiness required because the SMART trains will share the rail line with freight trains.

Kustom Seating, the largest manufacturer of seats for buses and trains in the United States, is supplying the seats for Nippon Sharyo, which has a $55.6 million contract to provide 13 two-car pairs for SMART.

The first aluminum car shells, which passed a crush test, are being shipped to Nippon Sharyo's new $50 million plant in Illinois for assembly.

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