Today was our first full day in the Czech Republic and perhaps this is a good time to review the purpose of our trip. We (a delegation from Portland Streetcar, Inc – of which I am a board member) are here to inspect three new cars under construction. They will be used to expand Portland’s fleet to 10 cars when the new extension to Gibbs St. opens in 2006. Currently we have a fleet of 7 and run up to 5 at a time to RiverPlace. With Gibbs we will need 7 cars running at peak times (8 if we can find operating funding to get headways down to 10 minutes, or if we are successful in funding a further extension to Lowell St.).
The delegation consists of Commissioner Sam Adams (shown here at the Prague Central railway station); his chief of staff, Tom Miller; Rick Gustafson, Executive Director of Portland Streetcar, Inc. (show below to the right of Josef Hušek, chairman of the Inekon Group (more about them in another post); Carter McNichol, construction manager for Portland Streetcar (to the left of Josef); Gary Cooper, a City of Portland employee who acts as maintenance supervisor for the Streetcar; Denny Porter of LTK, vehicle consultant to Portland Streetcar; and yours truly.
BTW – that’s a casino behind Josef and Rick at the railway station.
The group took a train this morning to Ostrava, where the vehicles are actually being manufactured. More on this tomorrow, when I’ll post about the plant visit. We were briefed on the progress against the schedule. The most significant issue is that this is a new Streetcar design, slightly different than the cars running on Portland’s streets right now (another post coming on that topic too). The new design was to have its qualification testing on a vehicle order for Washington, D.C., but D.C. has had delays in obtaining the right of way for its streetcar project and has delayed their vehicle order.
Nonetheless, Inekon tells us they will still meet our scheduled delivery. And the Portland Streetcar team tells me that starting operations on schedule in September ’06 is not in jeopardy.
A little bit on Ostrava. It’s the 3rd largest city in the Czech Republic, and about a 4-hour train ride from Prague, near the Polish boarder. It’s an industrial city with a focus on metallurgy and coal mining. There are also a number of nuclear plants in the area (our hotel is called the Hotel Atom)!