Amtrak’s High-Speed Acela in the Northeast Corridor Will Get New Trainsets in 2023, Delayed by Safety Testing
By Max Hartshorne
The first of Amtrak’s 28 new Acela trainsets, scheduled to enter service throughout the Northeast Corridor (NEC) in fall 2023, left Alstom’s facility in Hornell, N.Y. on Monday, Feb, 17 for high-speed testing at the Transportation Technology Center near Pueblo, Colo.
Nine months of dynamic testing will include the trainset’s pantograph, railway dynamics, tilting, traction, slip/slide and wayside protection, brakes, and train control management systems.
Once complete, the trainsets will return to Alstom for the installation of its interiors. The new trainsets have faced delays over ‘rigorous testing requirements’ according to a story in the Washington Post on July 6, 2022.
“Amtrak is proud to celebrate this major achievement for the new Acela fleet program, as we are bringing customers one step closer to enjoying the benefits of these new trains,” said Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson.
“With strong demand for Acela travel continuing to grow, we will test the trains to ensure customers will have safe and reliable service with modern amenities when these trains go into service next year.” A prototype train has been plying the route between Washington DC and Boston since 2020.
Part of the delay in delivering the trainsets, according to Amtrak, is that they are articulated, with adjoining coaches sharing a wheel truck, which makes the ride smoother and less bouncy. But it makes the safety tests take longer.
Other features that Amtrak is eager to roll out are reserved seating, touchless features in restrooms, and HVAC modifications to increase the rate of air exchange inside the cabins. The cafe car will have a self-select and checkout option, electrical outlets for phone charging and digital screens that display trip information.
The nation’s passenger rail network is slowly recovering from the Pandemic, according to news articles. Ridership in March 2022 rose to 71 percent of pre-pandemic levels and bookings are getting closer to normal, about 80 percent in July 2022.
Alstom is the Partner
Alstom is a French conglomerate that is building the trainsets in the US for Amtrak.
“Alstom is immensely pleased to partner with Amtrak to deliver Acela high-speed trainsets for service on the Northeast Corridor,” said Jérôme Wallut, Senior Vice-President for Alstom in North America.
“We would like to thank and congratulate all of our employees, suppliers and partners who helped make this important milestone a reality.
This milestone is another step closer to the realization of high-speed train manufacturing here in America.”
Amtrak served more than 3.5 million Acela customers in FY19, a 4.3% increase from FY18. In Dec. 2019, Acela had its best month ever, with a 16% ridership increase over the previous year.
Among the benefits of upgrading to these sleek new European-style trainsets is an increase in passenger amenities and comfort.
- Nearly 25% more seats. The 386 seats on each train will have the spacious, high-end comfort customers expect.
- Personal outlets, USB ports and adjustable reading lights at every seat.
- Contemporary food service, offering easy access and greater selection.
- Complimentary WiFi.
- Exceed accessibility requirements for people with disabilities.
- Spacious restrooms with a 60-inch diameter turning radius
From a recent release, Amtrak provided more details on these exciting new trains sets and the success of the Acela.
Amtrak’s Acela Success Story
Amtrak’s Acela service is a remarkable success story. From approximately 2.5 million passengers in 2002 to approximately 3.5 million passengers in 2019, Acela has experienced significant growth in revenue and market share in the Northeast. Acela is the premium service on the nation’s busiest rail corridor.
Each day, 750,000 people board commuter and Amtrak trains to head to work, school and other destinations, making the Northeast Corridor (NEC) a major driver of the regional and national economy. Nearly one-third of the region’s jobs are located within five miles of an NEC station.
The region is home to nearly a quarter of the nation’s top universities, a fifth of the Fortune 500 company headquarters, and many top hospitals.
Enhanced Safety Systems on Trainsets
The new Acela trains will feature cutting-edge safety systems to provide real-time monitoring and ensure a safe and comfortable ride. Interior safety details include handles integrated into the seatbacks to aid customers walking through the train, grab bars for stability and gap fillers to cover the space between the train and the platform, creating a smooth surface for entering/exiting the train.
Commitment to Sustainability
The new trainsets have been efficiently designed to use 40 percent less energy per passenger and feature sustainable components including seating made out of recycled leather. Amtrak is proud to expand our robust recycling program and offer a new sustainable food and beverage program onboard the Acela trains.