ON MAY 3 US passenger operator Amtrak announced that it had reached agreement with the Florida East Coast Railway to use the coastal route from Jacksonville to West Palm Beach. This will allow Amtrak to serve eight towns which last saw passenger trains in the mid-1960s, including the resorts of St Augustine, Daytona Beach and Port Canaveral.
Proposed as part of Amtrak’s network growth strategy, the services cannot start until finance has been raised for a $65m upgrading programme. This includes new stations, 30 km of double-tracking, and resignalling. Florida Department of Transportation has allocated $15·5m, and FEC will contribute $3m. Amtrak hopes to launch an initial service by mid-2002, with a second train following within three years.
Amtrak aims to run two daily trains between Jacksonville and Miami via the FEC, and one via the existing route through Orlando. Three trains will link Jacksonville and Tampa: two via Orlando and one via Ocala and Dade City. The Tampa and Miami portions will be combined between Jacksonville and New York; one train may also be extended north to Boston.
- Amtrak accelerated its Chicago - Detroit service on April 29, cutting the fastest trip to 5h 11min. This follows the introduction of GE-built P42 diesels in place of the ageing F40PHs, and full implementation on April 18 of the Incremental Train Control System (RG 8.96 p496) which allows 177 km/h operation between Michigan City and Kalamazoo.