Jeramey Jannene

12 Years After Being Built, Wisconsin’s Talgo Trains Enter Service

But in Nigeria, not Wisconsin.

By - Mar 5th, 2024 12:30 pm
Talgo Trainsets. Photo by Garrick Jannene.

Talgo Trainsets. Photo by Garrick Jannene.

Milwaukee-made trains designed for high-speed service picked up their first passengers last week.

Wisconsin taxpayers paid millions for the Talgo trainsets, but will need to spend even more on a plane ticket if they ever want to ride them.

Instead of welcoming passengers traveling between Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison, the Badger-colored trainsets are ferrying passengers in Lagos, Nigeria.

The first 17 miles of Lagos’ planned 23-mile Red Line opened to passengers on Feb. 29. The line is the second commuter rail line in Africa’s largest urban center, which boasts a population of greater than 21 million. Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who initiated the project more than two decades ago as governor of the city-state, attended the much-anticipated opening.

“This is the dream realized,” said Tinubu. But it certainly wasn’t Wisconsin’s dream.

In 2010, then-governor-elect Scott Walker refused a $823 million federal grant to build an Amtrak Hiawatha Service extension to Madison and plan an extension to Minneapolis, but the state was still on the hook to pay for the trainsets ordered in 2009 by predecessor Jim Doyle. Rather than invest in a maintenance facility to put the trainsets into use on the existing line, Walker and the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature had the state default on the contract. Talgo, which assembled the trains in a facility in Milwaukee’s Century City business park, sued in 2012 as the trainsets were completed and the equipment was placed into storage for a decade.

Wisconsin ultimately settled with Talgo, a move that cost the state $59 million and allowed the Spanish company to maintain ownership of the equipment.

In January 2022, it was announced that a Lagos transit authority would buy the equipment. The Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, joined Talgo USA CEO Antonio Perez and Mayor Cavalier Johnson to celebrate the purchase. In September 2022, a container ship delivered the diesel-powered trains to Lagos while construction continued on the new line, which currently includes eight stations and several road overpasses.

Lagos has big dreams for how the trainsets will be used. Government officials estimate that a staggering 750,000 passengers per day, 375,000 passengers for each 420-seat train, will ride the line. The 86-mile Hiawatha Service between Milwaukee and Chicago, with seven daily roundtrips, has never served more than 883,000 passengers in an entire year. The Nigerian rail line is expected to make 37 trips per day over a much shorter corridor. The nature of the line, with more stops and a higher frequency in a congested corridor, will undoubtedly spur more rides than the Hiawatha’s downtown-to-downtown ridership pattern. But 750,000 rides per day would still be nearly double the ridership of Chicago’s entire 102-mile “L” system.

The Lagos rail lines are being constructed by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.

Taglo hasn’t abandoned Milwaukee. In addition to building the two Series 8 trainsets for Wisconsin, it built two for use on the Amtrak Cascades Service between Oregon, Washington and Vancouver, Canada. Those trainsets remain in service.

The company also landed two major rehabilitation contracts for restoring subway and commuter rail equipment from California at the Milwaukee plant, originally built for A.O. Smith. But the subway contract with Los Angeles’ Metro agency was canceled in 2022, resulting in competing lawsuits and 10 subway cars being held in Milwaukee.

Amtrak, meanwhile, has procured new Venture coaches from Siemens for the Hiawatha and several other lines, replacing 1980s Horizon coaches, but the rollout has been delayed with only one set regularly operating on the Hiawatha.

In December, Wisconsin won several planning grants to study expanding passenger rail service to Madison, Eau Claire and Green Bay as part of a larger expansion effort. A second daily roundtrip between Milwaukee, La Crosse and St. Paul is expected to start this year, expanding service provided by the cross-country Empire Builder.

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More about the History of Talgo in Milwaukee

Read more about History of Talgo in Milwaukee here

Categories: Transportation

7 thoughts on “12 Years After Being Built, Wisconsin’s Talgo Trains Enter Service”

  1. Lgetschow says:

    Very Sad when Walker declined this. Future Opportunity lost. Connecting major cities.

    The HOP though is a waste of money.

  2. says:

    Good for the folks in Lagos! A reminder the moronic FitzWalkerMAGA era. As far as Im concerned, Scottie owes us taxpayers $59M….oh yeah, Foxscam-$$$$$$$$$

  3. Michael Clausing says:

    Sad, but glad to see they are getting used.

    “The HOP though is a waste of money.”

    I disagree. It’s not rapid transit and it’s not meant to be. It’s a fixed transit line running through one of the densest corridors in the state. I have no doubt that we’ve already benefited from it in terms of development. It has great potential should it expand (which I hope it does.)

  4. mkwagner says:

    The HOP has already spurred extensive development in downtown Milwaukee. Now MTS and the city have extended rapid transit from downtown the Medical Complex in Wauwatosa; AND are working to extend rapid transit route–Connect 2–connecting North and South along 27th Street. There are additional plans to extend the HOP possible from downtown to the airport and to Capitol Dr.
    If you look at the development of transit systems in other cities (the Twin Cities in Minnesota being the most relevant) where the transit system goes development rapidly follows. The HOP has provide excellent ROI.

  5. DAGDAG says:

    The former guy’s legacy. Cancel a binding contract, then pay for it anyway because you didn’t understand how a contract works in America. I wish this guy would go away…. But by all means tell the little guy that you spent their tax dollars wisely.

  6. Mingus says:

    Republicans have a mind set that Wisconsin is still in the 20th Century when the rest of the world is moving full force into the 21st century. Luddites!

  7. gerrybroderick says:

    Another addition to Walker’s sterling legacy. Couple this with his bollixed deal with FoxConn and a dozen other screw ups and then thank the heavens that he got nowhere near the oval. What a putz.

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