Train cars took flight Thursday morning as Austin's transit agency, Capital Metro, welcomed two new trains to its fleet to provide increased capacity and efficiency to residents of the metro area.

Mariette Hummel, communications specialist with Capital Metro, said residents traveling from Leander and Cedar Park to Austin who use the MetroRail passenger rail line will benefit from the additions to the current six-train fleet.

“This is just a big need. It’s a very popular service, and you can’t blame anyone for using it,” she said. “It’s a way to circumvent traffic, and one of the biggest problems here in Austin is traffic.”

Two trains, each consisting of two cars and an engine car, came across the Atlantic Ocean from Switzerland to Galveston, Hummel said. After a two-day drive to Austin, the train components were lifted onto the tracks by cranes on Thursday.

IMG_3608 After a two-day drive to Austin, the train components were lifted onto the tracks by cranes on Thursday.[/caption]

Once assembled, Hummel said the trains will go through 1,000 hours of testing, which will take about five to six months, as well as an inspection from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Another two trains are expected to be delivered in April.

Hummel said Capital Metro’s goal is to increase frequency and capacity in the metro system. With the addition of the four trains, riders could see a difference of 15 minutes wait for a train rather than 30, and an increased capacity of 400 to 800 riders an hour.

Capital Metro has received grants from the Texas Department of Transportation and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants to help fund expansion, and Hummel said about $28 million from those grants has gone to the purchase of the new trains. Other expansion efforts including increasing parking lot space, adding signals and siding to allow trains to pass each other.

Hummel said since the rail program went online about seven years ago, Capital Metro has worked to listen to the public and understand where the need is for the metro.

“There’s a demand for more frequent rail,” she said. “During South by Southwest, we were filling up trains until 2:30 a.m. We couldn’t fit more people in. We had to get more buses.”