Honolulu Officials Praise Ansaldo Rail Deal as Washington Metro Dumps the Cash Strapped Italian Company for Kawasaki

PROGRESS OR NOT? HART CEO Dan Grabauskas believes the city will prevail and the project will be built
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Dan Grabauskas

One of the most controversial decisions by the city’s rail authority was to award a contract to build the elevated steel on steel rail trains to the financially troubled Italian company Ansaldo.

The city’s HART CEO Dan Grabauskas maintained in a University of Hawaii student forum this week that the company was the best choice to design, build, operate and maintain Oahu’s $5.2 billion system.


But the Washington DC Metro operators have a different take. Their Ansaldo rail cars have been plagued with brake, lighting and air conditioning problems.

A Washington Post article on April 9 said the transit agency has decided to replace the Ansaldo rail cars at a cost of $889 million years ahead of schedule.

In addition, the DC Metro will contract with Kawasaki to provide the new rail cars, instead of having the Ansaldo’s failing cars repaired or refurbished.

According to the Washington Post, Metro board member Tom Downs called the Ansaldo rail cars a “fleet full of dogs,” and he maintained the chronic breakdowns were “killing” the agency.

Panos Prevedouros, PHD, a professor of Engineering at the University of Hawaii and an outspoken critic of the 20-mile elevated rail project, appeared in a forum with Grabauskas and two others at the University on Tuesday.

During the more than 2-hour forum on rail, Prevedouros notes that Grabauskas extolled his confidence on Ansaldo for the trains that he ordered from them, and then just hours later the Washington Metro announced their opinion and action about their Alsaldo-Breda rail cars.

Panos Prevedouros, PHD

International news reports in recent weeks have highlighted other troubles Ansaldo is facing because of one of its major investors, Finmeccanica.

Finmeccanica Chairman and CEO Giuseppe Orsi is being held in prison in Milan after he was arrested February 12, 2013, on a warrant that alleges he bribed officials in an effort to secure a 560 million euro Indian contract.

According to Milan news reports, the alleged bribes occurred in 2010 when Orsi headed company’s helicopter unit, AgustaWestland.

Depending on the outcome of the case, and the Indian government’s own probe, Finmeccanica could lose the $753 million contract. Meanwhile the company is facing other money troubles, according Reuters, which noted July 6, that Finmeccanica lost $2.85 billion in 2011 and hopes to sell off Ansaldo STS.

“It is obvious that Grabauskas and the HART Board will say anything to excuse the inexcusable decision to buy troubled rail cars from a troubled rail car company in a troubled country on the other side of the planet,” Prevedouros said.

“At least DC and Rome are connected with direct flights so if a critical part breaks down it can possibly be received within a day. It’ll take twice as long or longer for the same replacement to occur in Hawaii and at a larger expense.”

Prevedouros said while perhaps there was nothing unlawful in the procurement choice of Alnsaldo, the criteria for the choice were flawed.

“That is because no current decision maker in Honolulu ‘speaks rail.’ Many more mistakes to come due to the built-in cluelessness at HART and City Hall,” Prevedouros said.





  1. We should all be grateful for pano's attention to the "rail issue" and giving us the truth which nobody else in city hall seems interested in. Good grief, I really don't think any of the people who are responsible for choosing Ansaldo would buy a car for their family from Ansaldo!

  2. I was at the rail forum last Tuesday at UH and Panos and Randy Roth made the HART guys look like tools. It was laughable but sad at the same time. HART is a joke and the guy get a huge bonus. Unreal

  3. Marketing & sales careers will never use the rail, and downtown office workers need cars to pick the kids up, attend meetings, or refuse to sacrifice the Lexus/Mercedes/Cadillac cars to ride in ansaldo's fail rail car.

    As for future T.O.D. with rail routes; developments in Kakaako will offer 20 percent of its residences to those looking for affordable housing… " per state planners.
    So for us locals, Kakaako's future development ONLY allows 2 local middle to affordable incomes out of 10?
    Right now most urban plans on this corridor is for RICH people.

    Last, the EIS states; "InfraConsult's simulation of rail's transit load and schedule may "never match totally because of the random factors that can not be accounted for."
    Comments or complaints, call your councilperson found at; https://www1.honolulu.gov/council/ccl.htm

    • ". . . developments in Kakaako will offer 20 percent of its residences to those looking for affordable housing… " per state planners." Do you have a citation for this? I'm curious which developments are included in that %.

    • That is a requirement for development in Kakaako. BTW the definition of affordable is 140% medium income which is ~$94,000.

      • But what is the citation for that. I remember reading about one of the proposed towers, and the affordable rental units were actually for lower-income people.

        How did you arrive at $94,000. Figures I've seen for median income (I think for a family of four) were about $55,000, which at 140% is about $77,000 not $94,000.

      • The proposed Forest City development includes almost 50% of the units at 120% above median. The income levels allowed then depend on the median income used, which per HUD is $82,700 for 2012. At that rate, even the median seems high.

      • Didn't "arrive" at the number, see hawaii.gov, dbedt, hhfdc "Honolulu County Income Schedule by Family Size 2013" income table. Median Income is stated at $97,900. A 4-person family at 140% of income is $137,060.

  4. The latest change order is to install gates at the edge of the platforms. Why wasn't this in the original specs since Tokyo subways have been installing these gates for many, many years. Also, another change order for providing emergency generators for the cars when the power goes out to prevent them from getting stalled between stations. DUH? This is just the start of the flood of change orders.

  5. Mayor Kirk Caldwell will be holding a series of town hall meetings throughout May and hope you will be able to attend one of them.
    The scope of this initiative includes 8 key areas: 1) Outdoor spaces and buildings; 2) Transportation; 3) Housing; 4) Social Participation Opportunities; 5) Respect and Social Inclusion; 6) Civic Participation and employment; 7) Communication and Information; 8) Community and health services. The meetings will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

    •Monday, May 6, 2013, Honolulu -Kaimuki High School Cafeteria
    •Thursday, May 9, 2013, Wahiawa/Mililani – Wahiawa District Park

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