December 20, 2012

Amtrak to acquire high-speed trains for NEC

To better meet strong and growing ridership demand on the Northeast Corridor (NEC), Amtrak is advancing plans to acquire new next-generation high-speed train sets and ending its plans to purchase 40 additional high-speed passenger cars to add to the existing Acela Express fleet.

In early 2013, Amtrak will issue a Request for Information (RFI) to formally start the process that will replace the existing 20 Acela Express train sets and add additional train sets to expand seating capacity and provide for more frequent high-speed service on the NEC.

“Moving directly to new high-speed train sets is the best option to create more seating capacity, permit higher speeds, and maximize customer comfort all while improving equipment reliability and reducing operating costs,” said President/CEO Joe Boardman.

He explained that the previous plan to add 40 new passenger cars with newer technology to the older Acela train sets was a stop-gap measure, posed technical challenges and was determined not to be cost effective and insufficient to handle new ridership growth projections.

Boardman made the announcement before a Congressional committee saying that in the past two years Amtrak has moved forward a number of major proposals designed to address the NEC’s growth and development needs.

The proposals are detailed in the Amtrak Vision for the Northeast Corridor 2012 Update Report. First, is the NEC Upgrade Program to bring the corridor up to a state of good repair; add additional capacity to allow limited service growth; and make targeted trip-time improvements for all existing intercity, commuter and freight services. Among the elements is the Gateway Program to build vital track, tunnel and station capacity into the heart of Manhattan to support Amtrak and commuter rail growth.

Second, is the next-generation high-speed rail program to provide America’s economic, political and cultural capitals in the Northeast with the world-class 220 mph high-speed service the region deserves. With possible operating profits over a billion dollars annually and ridership well into 40 million riders a year upon full build-out, Amtrak expects that private capital, probably in the form of a public-private partnership, could play a significant role in this project.

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