The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has requested several key components of its trains be exempt from the USA’s strict local content requirements because there is nowhere in the country that can currently manufacture them.

The body shells, braking system and bogies were all included in two waiver requests published by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on its website last week.

Buy America rules require 100 per cent of the fleet’s content be sourced and manufactured in the USA, but the FRA could choose to remove this restriction if it feels there would be an issue with availability or quality, that the trains couldn’t be procured and delivered within a reasonable time, or that mandating domestic content would increase the cost of the project by more than 25 per cent.

The FRA is carrying out a public consultation before making a final decision. Although, a similar waiver has already been granted for the high-speed trains being procured for Amtrak’s Acela replacement fleet.

CHSRA said the step was only a temporary fix to provide clarity to potential bidders and stressed that trains with 100 per cent domestic content will be built in the USA in future.

The authority explained that the waiver will only apply to the initial order. The aim is for a knowledge transfer to take place which would pave the way for the complete domestic production of its high-speed trains.

“The authority has always stated that this high-speed rail project and the Buy America provision will make it worthwhile for high-speed train manufacturers to transfer knowledge and be located in the US, create jobs, and deliver 21st century, state-of-the-art trainsets,” said CHSRA spokesperson Lisa Marie Alley.

CHSRA will initially order two pre-series units. This will be followed by 16 more trains, which are expected to be eight cars long.

The trains will be used to operate passenger services on the state’s new high-speed railway – the first phase of which is due to open in 2025.

A Request for Proposal is due to be issued sometime in the next few months.

Image: California High-Speed Rail Authority