ON AUGUST 13 the New York state Department of Transportation filed a lawsuit against Amtrak over the railway’s failure to complete its share of the Empire Corridor upgrading programme between New York and Albany.
Announced six years ago, the co-operative venture between the state and Amtrak was designed to shave 20min off the 2h 20min trip. Part of the deal included upgrading and refurbishing seven 30-year-old gas turbine powered RTL-III Turboliners at a cost of $53m, a figure that later jumped to over $74m (RG 10.02 p616).
The civil works, which included raising the maximum line speed to 200 km/h and adding a second track between Albany and Schenectady, were delayed by a tax dispute between the state and right-of-way owner CSX. That controversy has since been settled, but Amtrak has come under more financial pressure and now says it cannot afford its share of the project.
Although Amtrak contracted with Super Steel Schenectady to overhaul the seven Turboliners, only four have been completed, and the railway has instructed Super Steel not to start work on the last two. Earlier this year Amtrak President David Gunn indicated that just four of the trains would enter service, although they would run with six rather than five cars. The first two did enter revenue service but were withdrawn in June because of inadequate air-conditioning.
According to NY DOT, the lawsuit aims to force Amtrak to meet its obligations, either by completing the trains and trackwork or by paying New York $477·3m, which it believes is Amtrak’s share of the work, plus $300m for operating seven Turboliners over 15 years. It appears that negotiations over a modified agreement have broken down, with Amtrak saying that infrastructure upgrades on the Northeast Corridor are more pressing. n