UPDATE: Wabtec closing Idaho-based Motive Power; shifting jobs and work to Pennsylvania

RELATED TOPICS: LOCOMOTIVES | SUPPLIERS | LABOR RELATIONS | WEST | EAST
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ERIE, Pa. — It seems the struggles of the former GE locomotive plant in Erie have come to an end and now it may have a brighter future with an announcement that Wabtec intends to move its Motive Power Industries operation to the Erie Plat plant.

The announcement was made Wednesday that it will be moving all manufacturing operations from its Boise, Idaho, facility to Erie.

“Decisions like this are never easy but will help simplify and optimize the company’s manufacturing footprint in today’s cyclical environment, as well as better position Wabtec for success," the statement reads, in part. "The company remains fully committed to all customer commitments and providing impacted employees with resources and benefits to manage the transition.”

The move comes as a surprise to some. One Wabtec employee in Erie who heard the news on Thursday said, “Its great news, it will make this place more diverse.”

Many are looking forward to the possibility of new work to come to the Erie plant as they learn this new development.

Motive Power Industries has had a long history in locomotive building and rebuilding going back to its Morrison Knudsen days. It became part of Wabtec in 1999. In recent times its commuter locomotives, most noteworthy the MP36, built as part of its MPXpress line of locomotives, have been the source of a lot of the company’s success. A few years ago, GE Transportation and MPI teamed up on an MBTA commuter locomotive order to produce the HSP46, which was a marriage of different manufacturer’s parts, with a GE motor and electrical system. Initial problems with the 20-unit order and subsequent issues with other commuter locomotives have caused problems for the company and there has been no more orders for them.

MPI still offers the only Tier 4 compliant MP54AC commuter locomotive built in the U.S. but so far, the only customer for it is Toronto’s GO Transit. They have not expressed an interest in more of these units. Some sources with Wabtec hope that they hope can re-enter the passenger locomotive business again. It has been several years since a GE-only passenger locomotive was produced for the U.S. market, but many of them are still in service.

MPI has also been hampered by other factors including it being a small facility of less than 500 employees and it is locked in geographically and has no way to expand out of its current footprint. Any locomotive tests to prove roadworthiness usually had to take place on a nearby BNSF Railway branch line as well.

UPDATE: Full story write-through. Sept. 19, 2019, 1:22 p.m. Central time.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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