By Ricardo Torres, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Talgo Inc. quality control employee Mary Slottke walks past coach train cars in the process of being built at Talgo Inc. in 2011. Talgo was retained to build trains for Amtrak’s Hiawatha line after a US$810 million federal stimulus grant to establish a Madison-to-Milwaukee line.
The train cars were supposed to run on a rail stretching from Milwaukee to Madison, but now they’re heading to Nigeria.
Lagos Gov. Sanwo Olu toured the Talgo facility in Milwaukee with Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson earlier this week.
“A train is not something you can just go on the shelf and pick up. We are very lucky to get brand new trains,” Olu said.
Talgo, a Spanish train-maker with a US headquarters in Seattle, built the two 10-car high speed trains that have been sitting idle for years in Milwaukee. The trains plan to be shipped to Lagos within the next two months.
Johnson welcomed Olu to Milwaukee, but he would have preferred to have found a use for the trains in Wisconsin.
“It is a little bittersweet,” Johnson said in a statement. “I am sending my congratulations to the Governor of Lagos State in Nigeria, but also a little disappointed that we missed out on the opportunity to have those train sets operating here in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin.”
Olu said the trains will provide a “source of livelihood for our citizens” by helping move people to jobs and around the state.
“It is about ensuring that we can build our economy; people can move from one location to another and businesses can grow,” Olu said in a statement.
With a population of roughly 27 million people, Lagos is one of the largest cities in Africa.
According to the release, there are about 6 million individuals in Lagos with daily transportation needs.
The Talgo trains will run on the Lagos Metro Red Line which is about 23 miles long with 11 stations. The red line is expected to be operational by the end of 2022 with roughly 500,000 daily passengers.
“For us, it is important that our trains are utilized,” Talgo USA CEO and president, Antonio Perez said. “It doesn’t make any good for the trains that we built to be stored and kept without passengers riding them.”
In 2009, Wisconsin received US$810 million in federal stimulus grant to establish a Milwaukee-to-Madison high speed rail line using Talgo trains under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. The project was killed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker defeated Doyle in 2010.
Talgo sued the state and in 2015, the state settled for US$60 million.
In 2014, the Michigan Department of Transportation issued a request for proposals for ready-to-operate trains that can reach speeds of 110 mph. It was thought the trains in Milwaukee could go to Michigan but no deal was ever finalized.
Later in 2014, two high-speed Talgo trains were sent to Beech Grove, Ind. but those trains were not part of the 2009 deal.