Production of the first units of new Amtrak
long-distance passenger railcars is nearing completion and they are expected to begin field testing this winter, according to rail network officials. The cars are being built by CAF USA
at its facility in Elmira, N.Y.
, which hired more than 400 employees to perform the manufacturing and final assembly work.
The $298.1 million order for 130 single-level long-distance passenger rail cars includes 25 sleepers, 25 diners, 25 baggage/dormitory and 55 baggage cars. More than 120 suppliers in 25 states and 93 cities are providing parts for the new railcars.
"The long-distance routes represent the most attractive business improvement opportunity for Amtrak and the new equipment will help us achieve cost reductions, more efficiency, revenue growth and better service," said Amtrak Board Member Tom Carper.
The new long-distance cars will replace and supplement the existing fleet and allow cars built in the 1940s and 1950s to be retired. The sleeper, diner and baggage/dormitory cars will likely operate on eastern routes such as Lake Shore Limited, Cardinal, Crescent and Silver Service with the baggage cars used nationwide. The first units are expected to enter revenue service during the summer of 2014. All 130 cars are expected to be delivered by the end of 2015.
Passengers will experience many improvements including: modern interiors with better layouts; better lighting and more efficient air conditioning and heating systems; additional outlets to power personal electronic devices; improved accessibility for passengers with disabilities; and bicycle racks in the baggage cars.
Long-distance trains provide national connectivity and mobility, feed riders onto the rapidly growing state-supported corridor services and deliver about half a million passengers to the Northeast Corridor each year. In FY 2013, all long-distance routes combined had the best year in 20 years with 4.8 million passengers.
In addition, about 42% of identified passengers with disabilities who used Amtrak in FY 2013 rode on a long-distance train. Amtrak long-distance trains serve 40% of America's rural population and are the only remaining scheduled intercity transportation in many places as intercity bus and airline services abandon smaller communities.