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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Acela finally set to cruise Northeast Corridor


On Nov. 16, Amtrak plans to send its Acela Express service streaking 150 mph along the Northeast Corridor from Washington to New York and Boston for its ceremonial inaugural run.

The national passenger railway system Oct. 18 accepted delivery of the first of 20 Acela Express train sets and plans to begin single-roundtrip-per-day revenue service Dec. 11. Tickets are scheduled to go on sale Nov. 29.

Regularly scheduled service is set to begin after the second train set is delivered, then ramp up as trains are delivered monthly. By the end of summer 2001, Amtrak plans to complete delivery of all 20 trains and run 19 daily roundtrips between New York and Washington, and 10 daily roundtrips between Boston and New York. And, as additional infrastructure improvements and train mechanical improvements are completed, the railway anticipates improving travel times between New York and Boston to three hours.

"With the clogged highways and disappointing performance by the airlines, this is an alternative that a lot of Americans are going to turn to," says Amtrak Chairman and Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson. "And the high-speed trains are going to give them more reason to do so."

Acela Express generates 12,500 horsepower with an Alstom-manufactured electric propulsion system, and a Bombardier-developed tilt technology system, designed to improve ride quality as the train passes through curves at high speeds. Amtrak’s $800 million contract with the Alstom/Bombardier consortium includes 15 high-horsepower locomotives for existing trains and new maintenance facilities in New York, Washington and Boston.

Each train set would have a locomotive on the front and the back, a first-class car, four business-class cars and a café car. The trains are designed to accommodate 304 passengers, including seats with electric outlets for laptop computers, three channels of audio entertainment, adjustable headrests and fold-down tray tops.

The trains also would have 32 table seating arrangements throughout, RailFones, and large restrooms with backlit mirrors and baby changing tables. The first-class car is designed to have two-by-one seating and would feature at-seat meals served on china with linen, while the café cars would resemble pubs, with an upscale menu selection, beer on tap and video entertainment.

"[The Acela Express train set] is a thing of beauty," says Thompson. "It’s going to show we’re not the old Amtrak; we’re the new Amtrak. This is a new century with new opportunities and a new way to go."

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/18/2000