Amtrak has contracted Alstom to produce 28 next-generation high-speed trainsets that will replace the equipment used to provide Amtrak’s premium Acela Express service. Alstom will also provide long-term technical support and supply spare components and parts for the maintenance of the new trainsets. The contract is part of $2.45 billion that will be invested on the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor (NEC) as part of a multifaceted modernization program to renew and expand the Acela Express service.
The Northeast Corridor (NEC) line covers roughly 730 km (457 miles). In only ten years, the number of passengers has increased from 2.4 million passengers in FY 2002 to 3.5 million in FY 2014. As part of an effort to renew and expand their premium product, Amtrak has therefore decided to purchase new trainsets to replace the existing Acela trains, thus increasing passenger capacity, providing more frequent service, minimizing journey times, and improving operating costs and energy efficiency.
The train ordered by Amtrak is Avelia Liberty, the latest development of Alstom’s high-speed train range Avelia. The new trainset will be able to carry up to 33% more passengers than the current Acela trains. The trainset configuration includes an innovative compact power car and nine passenger cars, with the possibility of three more being added if demand grows. The train is capable of travelling at speeds up to 300 km/h (186 mph), but will initially operate at a maximum speed of 257 km/h (160 mph) based on NEC track speed limits. Additionally, each concentrated power car is equipped with Alstom’s pioneering Crash Energy Management (CEM) system.
Another key feature is the train’s articulated architecture, which provides greater stability and passenger comfort while enhancing safety. The train also includes Alstom’s innovative Tiltronix anticipative tilting technology, which allows the train to manoeuvre curves safely and more comfortably at high speeds.
Amtrak is funding the trainsets and infrastructure improvements through the FRA’s Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program that will be repaid through growth in NEC revenues.
In addition to the trainsets, Amtrak is also investing in infrastructure needed to improve the on-board and station customer experience that will accommodate the increased high-speed rail service levels. Amtrak will invest in significant station improvements at Washington Union Station, Moynihan Station New York, as well as track capacity and ride quality improvements to the NEC that will benefit both Acela Express riders and other Amtrak and commuter passengers. Amtrak will also modify fleet maintenance facilities to accommodate the new trains.
The trainsets will be manufactured at Alstom’s Hornell and Rochester, N.Y., facilities, creating 400 local jobs. Additionally, parts for the new trainsets will come from more than 350 suppliers in more than 30 states, generating an additional 1,000 jobs across the country.
The first prototype of the new trainsets will be ready in 2019, with the first trainset entering revenue service in 2021. All of the trainsets are expected to be in service, and the current fleet retired, by the end of 2022.