USA: A fleet of 28 new high speed trains will enter service on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor in 2021-22, the national passenger operator announced on August 25.

To be built by Alstom at its plants in Hornell and Rochester, New York, the new trains will offer around 30% more capacity than the 20 Acela Express trainsets that they will replace. The expanded fleet will enable Amtrak to increase frequency, operating half-hourly between Washington and New York at peak times, and hourly between New York and Boston.

Branded Avelia Liberty by Alstom, the trains will be formed of two compact power cars and nine articulated passenger coaches, with an option of adding up to three more vehicles if demand grows. The trains will incorporate Alstom’s Tiltronix anticipative tilting technology and a Crash Energy Management system to meet the latest Federal Railroad Administration crashworthiness guidelines. Designed for operation at up to 300 km/h ‘to take advantage of future NEC infrastructure improvements’, the trains will initially enter service at speeds up to 255 km/h.

As well as offering ‘the spacious, high-end comfort of current Acela Express service’, Amtrak says the trains will have ‘modern amenities that can be upgraded as customer preferences evolve, such as improved wi-fi access, personal outlets, USB ports and adjustable reading lights at every seat, enhanced food service and a smoother, more reliable ride’.

The trains are being ordered as part of investment package to modernise and increase capacity on the corridor, where ridership is continuing to grow. Amtrak is to fund the work using a $2·45bn loan from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing programme, which it says ‘will be repaid through growth in NEC revenues’.

Infrastructure enhancements will include improvements at Washington Union and New York’s Moynihan stations to accommodate the increased service levels, track capacity and ride quality improvements, and modification to the rolling stock maintenance facilities.

A prototype trainset is expected to be ready for test running in 2019, with the first sets entering revenue service in 2021. All 28 trains are expected to be in service by the end of 2022, allowing the current Acela Express trainsets to be withdrawn.

Amtrak and Alstom have also signed a separate contract under which Alstom will provide technical support and spare parts to maintain the Avelia Liberty trains for 15 years, bringing the total value of the rolling stock package to $2bn, according to the manufacturer.

‘As more people rely on Amtrak, we need modernised equipment and infrastructure to keep the region moving’, explained Chairman Anthony Coscia.‘These trainsets will build on the popularity and demand of the current Acela Express and move this company into the future.’