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USA: The passage through both houses of Congress of the America Rescue Plan Act in early March has been welcomed by Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn, with the national passenger rail company set to receive $1∙7bn in recovery funding which will enable it to restore services cut during the coronavirus pandemic and to enhance its offering on key routes. It will also enable 1 200 furloughed employees to return to work over the next two financial years.

‘We thank Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the many champions of Amtrak, on both sides of the aisle, who helped secure $1∙7bn in federal funding for Amtrak in the American Rescue Plan’, Flynn said on March 10. ‘This critical funding will benefit the entire Amtrak network, our state and commuter partners, customers and employees. With this support, we can restore daily long-distance service, bring back furloughed employees as a result of the pandemic and continue our progress on vital capital projects.

‘We will work closely with Congress and the Biden Administration on next steps for funding to support Amtrak’s long-term growth. Funding options include expanding the Amtrak network through new corridor routes, that will create thousands of new jobs, reducing our nation’s carbon footprint, and helping the economy recover and flourish in the years ahead’, he added.

Daily service restored

Amtrak’s long-distance network of cross-country routes had been under financial pressure for a number of years before the pandemic forced the company to make swingeing cuts, with several routes seeing their frequency dramatically reduced.

Thanks to the Congressional funding, Amtrak is now planning to ‘fully restore daily service’ on 12 routes in a three-stage timetable increase to be introduced between May 24 and June 7. The 12 services affected are:

  • California Zephyr (Chicago – Omaha – Denver – Salt Lake City – San Francisco);
  • Capitol Limited (Washington DC – Pittsburgh – Cleveland – Chicago);
  • Crescent (New York – Washington DC – Atlanta – New Orleans);
  • Coast Starlight (Seattle – Portland – Sacramento – Oakland – Los Angeles);
  • City of New Orleans (Chicago – Memphis – Jackson – New Orleans);
  • Palmetto (New York – Washington DC – Charleston – Savannah);
  • Empire Builder (Chicago – St Paul-Minneapolis – Spokane – Portland/Seattle);
  • Lake Shore Limited (New York/Boston – Albany – Buffalo – Chicago);
  • Silver Meteor (New York – Savannah – Jacksonville – Orlando – Miami);
  • Texas Eagle (Chicago – St Louis – Dallas – San Antonio – Los Angeles);
  • Southwest Chief (Chicago – Kansas City – Albuquerque – Los Angeles);
  • Silver Star (New York – Raleigh – Jacksonville – Orlando – Tampa – Miami).

In addition, a raft of improvements to the long-distance network are due to be rolled out this summer, including the introduction to traffic of the first Viewliner II single-deck sleeping cars.

These are being built by CAF under a contract awarded in 2010 for 130 vehicles, also including baggage and dining cars; they are the first newly built cars to be added to the overnight fleet for more than two decades, Amtrak says.

Also entering service later this year will be the first ALC-42 Siemens Charger diesel locos, which will begin to replace Amtrak’s P40 and P42 prime movers on long-distance routes.


Amtrak’s ALC-42 variant of the Siemens Charger design is expected to enter service later this year.

Powered by a Cummins QSK95 engine rated at 4 200 hp and able to operate at up to 200 km/h, these long-distance Chargers are similar to those ordered by various states, commuter rail agencies and private operators, but include a number of enhancements for Amtrak’s needs, including higher head-end power and larger fuel tanks to haul longer and heavier trains. Unlike its existing P Series locos, the Chargers are compliant with EPA Tier 4 emissions standards.

Northeast by night

Amtrak is also to relaunch an overnight sleeping car service on its Northeast Regional trains between Boston and Washington DC for the first time in two decades from April 5.

Both Roomettes (compartments in which seats can be converted into beds) and premium Bedrooms will be offered on one overnight train in each direction, Amtrak says.

‘We offer a one-of-a-kind way to reach your destination’, says Roger Harris, Executive Vice-President, Chief Marketing & Revenue Officer. ‘In addition to all the safety precautions we are taking to make rail travel a safe experience, a private room will enhance the trip and give customers the added benefit of more comfort, space and privacy.’