Amtrak investing billions in new, green train cars

Jul 7, 2021

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Amtrak is investing $7.3 billion in manufacturing 83 new trains for some interstate and Northeast routes, expected to serve more than 1.5 million riders annually, the company announced on Wednesday.

Amtrak has contracted with manufacturer Siemens to produce the new fleet of trains they promise will modernize Amtrak service.

The rail company has asked Siemens for further options for up to 130 additional trains to support Amtrak growth plans.

Amtrak press release
(Screenshot courtesy Amtrak)

“These new trains will reshape the future of rail travel by replacing our aging 40-to-50-year old fleet with state-of-the-art, American-made equipment,” Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said in a statement. “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.”

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Some of their current train cars are nearly 50 years old. New train sets will have amenities such as “more comfortable seating, individual power outlets and USB ports onboard Wi-Fi, enhanced lighting and panoramic windows, larger vestibules, self-service food options, a digital seat reservation system and navigation display systems,” among others.

“Amtrak’s procurement of new rolling stock is historic. These state-of-the-art trainsets will allow Amtrak to operate and provide services more safely, efficiently, and reliably,” said FRA Deputy Administrator Amit Bose.

Additionally, the Siemen-contracted train cars will use less energy and rely on hybrid battery operation for at least some of the fleet. It will also focus on accessibility by providing “inductive hearing loops, accessible restrooms and vestibules, an accessible Food Service car, and lifts for customers with reduced mobility, including wheelchair users,” in addition to enhanced cleaning and safety protocols, such as no contact restroom controls.

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at an event marking Amtrak’s 50th Anniversary at the William H. Gray III 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 30, 2021. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

“These new trains, some of which will be our first hybrid battery operations in the United States, will transform the way Americans travel. Offering a more sustainable and comfortable travel experience, they will be built for excellence and built with pride in Sacramento, California,” Michael Cahill, President of Siemens Mobility, Rolling Stock in North America, said in a statement. “Over the past decade, we’ve worked closely with Amtrak and its state partners to develop and deliver trains that meet the needs of America’s travelers, these next-generation trainsets build on that experience and offer much more.”

Read more: President Biden celebrates 50 years of Amtrak with $80 billion infrastructure push

Amtrak ridership is currently at its highest level in 2021 approximately 55 percent of pre-pandemic levels, per the New York Times.

According to Amtrak:

“The new equipment will operate on the Northeast Corridor, long distance Palmetto and various state-supported routes that will replace Amtrak-owned Amfleet, Metroliner, and state-owned equipment on certain routes throughout the country. In addition to the Northeast Regional, other routes will include the Adirondack, Carolinian, Cascades, Downeaster, Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Keystone Service, Maple Leaf, New Haven/Springfield Service (Amtrak Hartford Line and Valley Flyer), Pennsylvanian, Vermonter and Virginia Services.”

Of note is the inclusion of a “long-term parts and service agreement” Amtrak will use to manufacture the trains, amidst chip and part shortages in the U.S.

The company also noted that the project will create 2,100 jobs at a Sacramento-based Siemens plant. The deal aligns with President Joe Biden’s commitment to increase usage of greener transportation options in the U.S., including mass transit. To finance the project, Amtrak will use $200 million in funding authorized Congress and rely on future approval from Congress.

Featured photo by Focused Adventures/Shutterstock.

Read more: Amtrak extends points expiration, continues to pause its waiver of change fees

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