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Amtrak to start Acela Express fleet replacement

14 Dec 2012

USA: Amtrak has abandoned plans to lengthen its current fleet of 20 Acela Express trainsets to increase capacity, and instead intends to procure a new fleet of high speed trains to operate on the Northeast Corridor between Washington DC, New York and Boston.

Amtrak ridership has increase by 50% over the past decade, and in the financial year to September 30, the federally-owned inter-city passenger operator carried a record 31·2 million passengers, of which 11·4 million used the Northeast Corridor.

The corporation had planned to purchase a further 40 intermediate cars to lengthen the current six-car trains as a stop-gap measure, but testifying before the House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on December 13, Amtrak President Joe Boardman confirmed that this would be 'too expensive', as well as posing technical challenges. Instead, he said the operator would issue a Request for Information in early 2013 to start the process of replacing them with a larger fleet of new trains to operate more frequent services.

'Moving directly to new high-speed trainsets is the best option to create more seating capacity, permit higher speeds and maximise customer comfort, while improving equipment reliability and reducing operating costs', he explained.

In its updated vision document for development of the Northeast Corridor Amtrak says upgrading the current line to a state of good repair and increasing capacity would allow 'limited growth' and some journey time improvements between now and 2030. In the longer term, it continues to argue that the construction of a dedicated 350 km/h route through some form of public-private partnership will be essential to accommodate a projected 40 million passengers/year.