WASHINGTON – Amtrak will recommend new U.S. rail-safety regulations to allow it to replace its Acela trains in the Northeast United States with lighter, faster equipment, CEO Joseph Boardman said, according to Bloomberg News.
U.S. crashworthiness standards force Amtrak to use trains that have locomotives on both ends and are slower and heavier than bullet trains used in Europe and Asia, Boardman said in an interview. Those standards reflect that U.S. passenger trains often share tracks with freight railroads rather than operating on their own lines.
Existing standards apply to trains traveling as much as 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour). Writing new rules that relax railcar structural-strength requirements for faster trains “would allow for less use of fuel, quicker acceleration, a different performance profile,” said Boardman. “What we’re really looking for is a performance specification here.”
Amtrak announced in November that it would seek bids to replace its 12-year-old fleet of 20 Acela trains operating between Washington and Boston instead of adding two cars to each train, a plan its inspector general questioned as too expensive. The Acela carried about 3.4 million passengers and produced about one-fourth of Amtrak’s $2 billion in ticket revenue for the year ended Sept. 30.
Boardman said he’d like to add at least 10 to 12 trains before beginning to retire the current Acela fleet. The cost may be $30 million to $40 million per train set, Boardman said. •