Amtrak Airo train impression

USA: Amtrak has announced Airo as the brand name for the electro-diesel push-pull trainsets which it has ordered from Siemens Mobility for use on medium-distance inter-city services, setting out more details of the proposed fleet.

‘Our new trains will transform the Amtrak experience with significant environmental benefits, a progressive design and world-class amenities’, said the national passenger operator’s President Roger Harris on December 15.

The first Airo set is expected to be delivered in 2025, with the trains entering service in 2026-31.

Intercity Trainsets contract

Amtrak Airo train impression (2)

The Intercity Trainsets contract awarded to Siemens Mobility in 2021 covers the supply of trainsets, a 23-year technical support and spare parts agreement and the provision of new or upgraded maintenance facilities.

Amtrak Airo train composition

The base order envisages a fleet of 73 trainsets to replace the ageing Amfleet I railcars built in the 1970s and 16 ex-Metroliner railcars built in the 1960s, as well as Talgo stock used on the Cascades service. Amtrak then exercised an option for a further 10 sets, and there are options for up to 130 more to support the operator’s growth plans.

Each trainset will be formed of one locomotive and six or eight passenger coaches. Some sets will be diesel only, but most will be bi-modes, with the coach next to the locomotive being an ‘auxiliary power vehicle’ with a pantograph, and transformer cabinet to feed the locomotive’s traction motors, as well as a supplementary powered bogie.

Hybrid sets for use on services in the northeastern states will be fitted with traction battery, which will be able to supply electricity to the locomotive when operating around New York Penn station where diesel traction is prohibited. This will eliminate the need for the trains to take third rail power. Amtrak said this would be the first use of battery propulsion for US inter-city passenger operations on ‘a non-experimental revenue service basis’.

Amtrak said the ‘near seamless’ transition between traction modes would remove the need for time-consuming locomotive changes on partially electrified routes.

The next generation of travel

Amtrak Airo train impression (4)

‘’Passengers want a reliable, comfortable, and sustainable experience once onboard’, said Michael Cahill, President of Siemens Mobility’s North American rolling stock business which will assemble the fleet at its plant in California. ‘Our 2 500 team members in Sacramento and hundreds of suppliers in the US are proud to help Amtrak deliver the next generation of travel.’

Amtrak anticipates that the 200 km/h trainsets will be more fuel efficient that its current fleet, and produce 90% less particulate emissions in diesel operation.

The coaches will feature a ‘modern, spacious interior’ with large windows. The seats will be fitted with tray tables, moveable headrests and a dedicated cup and seatback tablet-holder. Business class will have a 2+1 seating layout, with 2+2 in standard vehicles.

Other features will include digital customer information systems and touchless toilet controls, power sockets and USB ports and wi-fi.

Each trainset will have a café car providing a ‘contemporary’ food service with self-service options.

Colour-coded exterior and interior signage will clearly differentiate types of accommodation.

The eight dedicated trainsets for the Cascades service linking Washington state, Oregon and British Columbia and two spare locomotives will be finished in an ‘evergreen and mocha’ livery representing the Pacific Northwest and harking back to previous Amtrak Cascades trains.

Best days are ahead

Amtrak Airo train impression (3)

Chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Peter DeFazio said ‘thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this $7·3bn investment in Amtrak Airo equipment will reduce the environmental impact of the transportation sector while improving the passenger experience. Amtrak Airo will produce less air pollution than current models and will provide an enhanced level of comfort that will attract riders.’

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said ‘if anybody still wonders if the best days of passenger rail are ahead of us, they now have the visual proof and can rest assured. The best is yet to come, thanks to a focus on enhancing passenger amenities and employing greener technologies.’