July 07, 2021
Amtrak has unveiled a $7.3 billion plan to upgrade its stock of rail cars with 83 new multi-powered trains, many of which will be used to replace aging trains used for decades on the Northeast Corridor. The plan, one of the national rail service's biggest investments in its 50-year history, also will include other improvements across its network.
California-based Siemens has been contacted to produce the first 73 new Venture train cars as part of a $3.4 billion deal. An additional $1.5 billion in Congressional funding, expected to come from pending transportation and infrastructure bills, will enable the procurement of another 10 train sets and 130 additional trains as part of Amtrak's growth plan.
The Siemens Venture locomotives are based on the Siemens Viaggio Comfort railcars in use in Europe and adapted for the North American market. Amtrak previously had ordered modified Venture train sets for Midwest lines, and they have also been ordered for locations in California and Florida. The trains are certified to operate at speeds up to 125 mph.
The new trains will replace some of the Amfleet 1 train cars and other inherited models that have been in use on the Northeast Corridor since Amtrak began operating in 1971.
"This equipment is now 40 to 50 years old. It’s definitely earned its keep, but now it is ready for retirement," Amtrak President Stephen Gardner told the Washington Post. "This effort is to replace that equipment with state-of-the-art, modern, versatile, efficient train sets."
Under the plan, Amtrak hopes to have its first Venture cars in operation in 2024. The entire fleet would be replenished by 2031.
The new trains will have bidirectional capabilities and are expected to reduce turnaround times with their dual-power electric and diesel engines, enabling smoother transitions between electrified and non-electrified lines. Amtrak also expects that it will be able to run trains more often and accommodate 1.5 million additional passengers.
Other features of the Venture trains include on-board WiFi, individual power and USB outlets, panoramic windows and improved lighting.
"This investment is essential to preserving and growing our Northeast Regional and state-supported services and will allow our customers to travel comfortably and safely, while deeply reducing criteria pollutants," said Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn.
The investment comes after Amtrak ordered 28 high-speed train sets from the French company Alstom to upgrade its Acela high-speed line.
Amtrak is awaiting a Congressional deal on a infrastructure bill that could provide up to $80 billion in funding that would be used to expand its network with additional service lines in locations across the United States.