New Train Sets, Service to Canada, and a Lot More in 2023
By Max Hartshorne
This is an exciting time to be a train travel buff in the United States. After so many decades of declining funding and deteriorating tracks, Americans have finally seen enough of the great trains in Europe and China and are now expecting a little more from our national passenger railroad corporation.
Thanks to the Amtrak-Rider-in-the-White House Joe Biden, and the giant infrastructure plan he helped pass in 2021, funds have been allocated for many significant improvements in the Northeast for rail travel. Plus new trains!
Amtrak Service to Toronto
Sometime in 2023, you will be able to take trains to both Toronto and Montreal, and the dozens of small towns that lie in between. Even though the train that serves Greenfield is now the Vermonter, traveling as far north as Essex Junction/Burlington and then finally St. Albans. There is another train, the Adirondack, which will take you all the way to glorious Montreal.
Amtrak’s Maple Leaf service will also resume cross-border service as of June 27, once again offering a connection between the United States and Canada. Along the way, it stops at destinations like Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany. The trip to Toronto takes about 12 hours, including two hours for customs and immigration as it crosses the border.
Tickets start at less than $300, although they can be more depending on the timing and whether or not you opt for Business Class.
Amtrak’s Acela Getting a Boost
Amtrak’s pride and joy and biggest money maker is its Acela high-speed trains, which operate between Washington DC and Boston. If you’ve ever seen these blocky trains whizzing by and wondered why they look so old, it’s because they haven’t gotten new train sets for twenty years. But in 2023, Amtrak unveils its newest and best Acela cars yet, built in the U.S. by France’s Alstom, and capable of great speeds.
However, the tracks they run on are still limited, so while speeds will improve somewhat, we are still far from the speeds reached on France’s TGV or Spain’s AVE trains, which can go up to 275 MPH.
Tilt Cars and Cleaner Engines for Acela
The new Acela trains an enhanced active tilt system that will allow higher speed on the many curved sections of the route. The new train cars will also bring in more money on this lucrative Amtrak line, offering 25 percent more seats.
These new locomotives reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 89 percent and particulate matter by 95 percent. The locomotives also consume less fuel and reach top speeds of 125 mph.
Not only are Amtrak’s fastest trains getting better, but the regular speed train cars that service Greenfield and the whole Knowledge Corridor are also going to be all new as well.
The trainsets are currently being built by Seimens Mobility in Sacramento, California, and will be called Amtrak Airo cars. Delivery starts in 2024. Even though today’s cars are plenty comfortable, these trains will be almost as nice as what you find in Europe, with plenty of plugs, no middle seat, and welded tracks that avoid the clickety-clack of yesteryear, and Metro-North.
Amtrak’s New ALC 42 Locomotives
The locomotives that pull these new Amtrak passenger cars are also going to be all new. They will be made by Siemens and they’re called ALC 42, and they will be diesel Electric meaning that they run on both kinds of power.
But the biggest change that will ripple throughout the entire northeast in terms of how it will affect efficiency and scheduling is the most expensive.
The long-planned Gateway Program is a series of rail infrastructure projects that will improve the most congested 10-mile section of the Northeast Corridor, adding needed resiliency and creating the capacity for a doubling of passenger trains under the Hudson River into New York — Penn Station — the nation’s busiest rail facility.
Four Mainline Tracks
The Gateway Program will create four mainline tracks between Newark, NJ, and New York – Penn Station, where there are currently just two. Work includes a new tunnel under the Hudson River, rehabilitation of the existing century-old tunnel, new tracks and platforms at New York – Penn Station, new Portal North and South Bridges over the Hackensack River in New Jersey, construction of loop tracks in Secaucus and replacements for the Sawtooth Bridges, among other needed improvements.
This will open up the bottleneck that is the reason you have to wait to see which track your train will be departing from when you are at Moynihan in NYC. There are so many tracks coming in that like airport terminal departure gates, they get changed at the last minute. The additional tunnels under the Hudson are going to make a huge difference to Amtrak’s service throughout the Northeast.