Four years after the first M9 trains rolled out, the LIRR had hoped to have all the new trains in service, but acknowledges the last of them won’t be here until sometime in 2024. Newsday transportation reporter Alfonso A. Castillo reports. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The remaining cars in the LIRR’s new electric fleet aren’t expected to arrive until May, eight months later than the railroad’s most recent projection and four years later than originally planned, MTA documents show.

The latest setback in the Long Island Rail Road’s $730 million procurement of 202 M9 train cars from Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. comes as the LIRR looks to address rider frustrations over crowded trains and the continued reliance on some cars that are nearly 40 years old.

MTA officials said the LIRR has 176 M9 cars in service, with another two undergoing testing and expected to join the fleet soon.

In May, an independent engineering consultant hired by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority predicted the last trains in the LIRR’s purchase wouldn’t arrive until December, three months later than the authority’s target of September. MTA officials, at the time, disputed the prediction and insisted the effort remained “on track.”

But in a report given last month to the MTA Board’s Capital Construction Committee, the LIRR acknowledged “the acceptance of the remaining cars has slipped to 2024.”

The report gives a new forecast of May for the arrival of the remaining cars, which the MTA, in 2018, said would be in place by the end of 2020.

Asked for an explanation for the latest delays, MTA spokesperson Joana Flores, in a statement, pointed to “limited manufacturer options,” parts shortages, and “quality assurance issues.”

The rollout of the new cars has been plagued by delays, many of which the LIRR has blamed on Kawasaki. Since the first cars began arriving about four years ago, the LIRR has regularly had to send them back to the manufacturer to address what it called “workmanship issues” resulting in test failures, including faulty wiring, incorrect installation of vestibule flooring and problems with bathroom doors.

“We have a red line when it comes to accepting quality in new cars below what Long Islanders have a right to expect, and have told Kawasaki it’s accountable for delays that will lead to a small percentage of M9 cars being shipped in 2024, and for expediting delivering when their issues are resolved,” Flores said.

Kawasaki officials did not respond to requests for comment. The LIRR awarded Kawasaki the contract for its new cars in 2013, with the goal of bolstering its fleet in time for the opening of Grand Central Madison.

The M9 trains, recognizable by their LED lights, electrical outlets at every row of seats, and push-button doors, remain scarce among the railroad’s overall fleet of about 1,100 electric cars, the majority of which are about 20 years old. The sight of an M9 arriving at a station is so rare that some commuters have dubbed the new trains the “unicorns” of the LIRR system.

With the fleet stretched thin, and the railroad adding nearly 300 trains to its schedule earlier this year with the opening of Grand Central Madison, the LIRR has turned to its 1980s-era M3 trains to make up the difference. The cars had been mothballed for nearly three years before being reintroduced into the fleet in 2022.

“Those older trains are rusty, no phone plugs. We need to remove those completely,” Vick Artis, 27, said Wednesday at the Mineola station just before boarding his train, which was not an M9. Artis said he only catches the new trains “once in blue moon.”

Merillon Avenue station commuter Kevin Collins said of the “hundreds of times” he’s taken the train in recent years, he’s been on an M9 “maybe 10 times.”

“It’s a very nice treat. It’s like, ‘Is this the Long Island Rail Road, or am I over in Europe or someplace where they take care of their customers?’ ” said Collins, 68.

He rides the vintage-era M3 trains “all the time.”

“It gets you there, but it’s not a smooth ride. And it’s not worth what we’re paying for,” added Collins, a college professor.

The latest delay has made for “extreme frustration” for Gerard Bringmann, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council, who believes railroad riders “need every car we can get.”

“Every time we get an M9, hopefully we can take one of the worst M3s out of service, or better yet, add to the [fleet],” said Bringmann, a nonvoting member of the MTA Board.

To provide all the extra service that came with the launch of Grand Central Madison, the railroad has been operating some trains with fewer cars than usual, at times making for what riders say are crowded onboard conditions — a problem that could be addressed with the remaining M9 cars.

“We get a set of those and we can make an eight-car train a 10-car train,” Bringmann said.

Flores said the delay in the arrival of the last of the M9 would not have any impact on service. But LIRR interim president Catherine Rinaldi, asked in February whether the delayed arrivals of the M9s were compounding the capacity problems that arose after the opening of Grand Central Madison, acknowledged that “every car helps.”

Even before the last of the M9s arrive, the LIRR has already fallen behind on its next fleet of train cars, known as the M9A. When it first announced plans for the cars in 2016, the railroad said it expected to have them in place for the opening of Grand Central Madison — then predicted to happen in 2021. But the LIRR has yet to award the contract for the new cars, which railroad officials have said would allow them to finally retire the M3s.

The MTA has said the delays are due to changes in market and supply chain conditions, and issues related to COVID-19.

The remaining cars in the LIRR’s new electric fleet aren’t expected to arrive until May, eight months later than the railroad’s most recent projection and four years later than originally planned, MTA documents show.

The latest setback in the Long Island Rail Road’s $730 million procurement of 202 M9 train cars from Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. comes as the LIRR looks to address rider frustrations over crowded trains and the continued reliance on some cars that are nearly 40 years old.

MTA officials said the LIRR has 176 M9 cars in service, with another two undergoing testing and expected to join the fleet soon.

In May, an independent engineering consultant hired by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority predicted the last trains in the LIRR’s purchase wouldn’t arrive until December, three months later than the authority’s target of September. MTA officials, at the time, disputed the prediction and insisted the effort remained “on track.”

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The remaining cars in the LIRR's new fleet of M9 electric train cars aren't expected to arrive until May, eight months later than the railroad’s most recent projection and four years later than originally planned.
  • The rollout of the new cars, which are costing the LIRR more than $730 million, has been plagued by delays, many of which the LIRR has blamed on "workmanship issues" on part of the manufacturer, Kawasaki Rail Inc.
  • As of July, the LIRR had 172 M9 cars in service, out of the 202 ordered. The M9s are so rare among the fleet of 1,100 electric rail cars that some commuters have dubbed them "the unicorns."

But in a report given last month to the MTA Board’s Capital Construction Committee, the LIRR acknowledged “the acceptance of the remaining cars has slipped to 2024.”

The report gives a new forecast of May for the arrival of the remaining cars, which the MTA, in 2018, said would be in place by the end of 2020.

Asked for an explanation for the latest delays, MTA spokesperson Joana Flores, in a statement, pointed to “limited manufacturer options,” parts shortages, and “quality assurance issues.”

‘Unicorn’ trains a ‘nice treat,’ riders say

The rollout of the new cars has been plagued by delays, many of which the LIRR has blamed on Kawasaki. Since the first cars began arriving about four years ago, the LIRR has regularly had to send them back to the manufacturer to address what it called “workmanship issues” resulting in test failures, including faulty wiring, incorrect installation of vestibule flooring and problems with bathroom doors.

“We have a red line when it comes to accepting quality in new cars below what Long Islanders have a right to expect, and have told Kawasaki it’s accountable for delays that will lead to a small percentage of M9 cars being shipped in 2024, and for expediting delivering when their issues are resolved,” Flores said.

Kawasaki officials did not respond to requests for comment. The LIRR awarded Kawasaki the contract for its new cars in 2013, with the goal of bolstering its fleet in time for the opening of Grand Central Madison.

One of the new M9 trains. The remaining cars in the...

One of the new M9 trains. The remaining cars in the LIRR’s new electric fleet aren’t expected to arrive until May. Credit: Charles Eckert

The M9 trains, recognizable by their LED lights, electrical outlets at every row of seats, and push-button doors, remain scarce among the railroad’s overall fleet of about 1,100 electric cars, the majority of which are about 20 years old. The sight of an M9 arriving at a station is so rare that some commuters have dubbed the new trains the “unicorns” of the LIRR system.

With the fleet stretched thin, and the railroad adding nearly 300 trains to its schedule earlier this year with the opening of Grand Central Madison, the LIRR has turned to its 1980s-era M3 trains to make up the difference. The cars had been mothballed for nearly three years before being reintroduced into the fleet in 2022.

“Those older trains are rusty, no phone plugs. We need to remove those completely,” Vick Artis, 27, said Wednesday at the Mineola station just before boarding his train, which was not an M9. Artis said he only catches the new trains “once in blue moon.”

To overcome a train shortage, the LIRR put back into...

To overcome a train shortage, the LIRR put back into service retired M3 cars, some of which have seats repaired with duct tape, including this one seen last October. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Merillon Avenue station commuter Kevin Collins said of the “hundreds of times” he’s taken the train in recent years, he’s been on an M9 “maybe 10 times.”

“It’s a very nice treat. It’s like, ‘Is this the Long Island Rail Road, or am I over in Europe or someplace where they take care of their customers?’ ” said Collins, 68.

He rides the vintage-era M3 trains “all the time.”

“It gets you there, but it’s not a smooth ride. And it’s not worth what we’re paying for,” added Collins, a college professor.

‘Extreme frustration’ for rider rep

The latest delay has made for “extreme frustration” for Gerard Bringmann, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council, who believes railroad riders “need every car we can get.”

“Every time we get an M9, hopefully we can take one of the worst M3s out of service, or better yet, add to the [fleet],” said Bringmann, a nonvoting member of the MTA Board.

To provide all the extra service that came with the launch of Grand Central Madison, the railroad has been operating some trains with fewer cars than usual, at times making for what riders say are crowded onboard conditions — a problem that could be addressed with the remaining M9 cars.

“We get a set of those and we can make an eight-car train a 10-car train,” Bringmann said.

Flores said the delay in the arrival of the last of the M9 would not have any impact on service. But LIRR interim president Catherine Rinaldi, asked in February whether the delayed arrivals of the M9s were compounding the capacity problems that arose after the opening of Grand Central Madison, acknowledged that “every car helps.”

Even before the last of the M9s arrive, the LIRR has already fallen behind on its next fleet of train cars, known as the M9A. When it first announced plans for the cars in 2016, the railroad said it expected to have them in place for the opening of Grand Central Madison — then predicted to happen in 2021. But the LIRR has yet to award the contract for the new cars, which railroad officials have said would allow them to finally retire the M3s.

The MTA has said the delays are due to changes in market and supply chain conditions, and issues related to COVID-19.

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