$15.5-million contract announced for QLINE operator

$15.5-million contract announced for QLINE operator :Detroit’s streetcar has its operator.

M-1 Rail, the organization overseeing the QLINE, has inked a five-year, $15.5-million contract with Transdev Services, of Lombard, Ill., for operations and maintenance. The contract is renewable for up to an additional five years.

Today’s announcement puts in place a key part of the rail line’s future as it continues to push to begin operations next year along 3.3 miles of Woodward Avenue.

Paul Childs, M-1 Rail’s chief operating officer, noted the company’s experience with other streetcar systems. The company has been working on the New Orleans streetcar system, was brought in to operate the Atlanta streetcar, and is working with the Cincinnati streetcar as it prepares to open in September, officials said. The company is also involved with several streetcar systems overseas.

“We’re the parent company, we don’t have any true experience in operating a streetcar,” Childs said. “They brought an immense amount of experience with them and credibility.”

In a news release, Childs said “our partnership with Transdev ensures the QLINE will provide a safe, reliable and best-in-class transit experience for our ridership.”

The company plans to hire approximately 25 people, including about 14 streetcar operators as well as maintenance and management employees. Ken Westbrook, president of Transdev’s Rail Division, said the timing for hires depends on the delivery of streetcars, which is expected this fall. It takes about six to eight weeks to train a streetcar operator.

Construction of the rail line should be largely completed this year with the system operational by spring of 2017, officials say.

Safety will be a key concern, Westbrook said.

“You’re running streetcars in mixed traffic so safety is paramount,” Westbrook said.

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