The contract has an estimated value of up to $US 1.3bn and the vehicles are due to be delivered over a seven-year period from 2018. With the exception of EMU cars for Metra Electric, the coaches will be the first additions to Metra's passenger rolling stock fleet since 2006.

Metra's 2016 budget allocates funding for 10 new coaches, with a further 106 vehicles for delivery in 2018-2019 and the remaining 261 in 2020-2024. Metra says it expects to secure sufficient funding to order all 367 vehicles.

"With the oldest fleet of any of our peer railroads, we can't keep kicking the can down the road when it comes to investing in our fleet," says Metra executive director and CEO Mr Don Orseno. "This purchase will reduce the fleet's average age from 28 years to 16 years by 2024."

In addition to the new coaches, 85 locomotives will be rebuilt up to 2024 at an estimated cost of $US 178.5m, extending their life by around 25 years, while 52 new locomotives will be purchased in 2020 for delivery between 2020 and 2024 at an estimated cost of $US 416m.

Metra plans to fund the modernisation programme through fare increases, state and federal funding, and around $US 400m in loans. It is also looking into alternative methods of financing to implement the plan.