January 29, 2014

Amtrak, California request bids for high-speed trains

Amtrak is seeking up to 28 high-speed trainsets that can meet or exceed current Acela Express trip times on the existing NEC infrastructure. Photo courtesy Peter Van den Bossche, Wikimedia Commons

Amtrak is seeking up to 28 high-speed trainsets that can meet or exceed current Acela Express trip times on the existing NEC infrastructure. Photo courtesy Peter Van den Bossche, Wikimedia Commons

Amtrak and the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) issued a request for proposals to build modern, state-of-the-art high-speed trainsets last week.

The trainsets are essential to meeting Amtrak’s critical short-term need to expand the capacity of its current Northeast Corridor (NEC) high-speed service and meeting the long-term operational needs of both Amtrak and the CHSRA.

Amtrak is seeking up to 28 high-speed trainsets, each with between 400 and 450 seats, which can meet or exceed current Acela Express trip times on the existing NEC infrastructure between Washington, D.C., New York and Boston.

CHSRA is seeking an initial order of 15 trainsets, which will have a minimum of 450 seats that can meet its planned trip-time requirements for service from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles on what will be largely brand new infrastructure.

A goal of the procurement is to identify whether established high-speed rail equipment manufacturers have service-proven designs that can meet both the short-term needs of Amtrak and the long-term operational needs of CHSRA and Amtrak with little or no modification.

It is also hoped that the joint procurement of equipment with a large degree of commonality will result in lower unit acquisition and lifecycle costs for both Amtrak and CHSRA, while helping expand the U.S. role in high-speed rail equipment manufacturing.

“With packed trains and increasing demand, the need to expand the capacity of Amtrak’s high-speed service cannot be overstated,” said Amtrak President/CEO Joe Boardman. “It is absolutely critical that we get more high-speed trains as soon as possible to provide more service and meet the growing mobility and economic needs of the Northeast region.”

The CHSRA requires operation at speeds of a minimum of 200 mph, which is similar to what Amtrak expects it will need to realize its Vision for High-Speed Rail on the NEC. Initially, Amtrak intends to operate at peak speeds of 160 mph because that is the expected max maximum allowable speed permitted by the NEC infrastructure at the time these trainsets are delivered.

“This is a major milestone for California’s high-speed rail project,” said CHSRA CEO Jeff Morales. “Combining California’s and Amtrak’s orders will help make it worthwhile for manufacturers to locate in the United States, create jobs and deliver 21st Century, state-of-the art trainsets.”

Only current manufacturers of high-speed rail equipment, which the partners define as manufacturers with equipment in commercial operation at speeds of at least 160 mph for at least two years, will be eligible to submit a bid. Proposals are due May 17. Amtrak and CHSRA expect to select a builder by the end of 2014.

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