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Amtrak shows off video of new Acela high-speed trains; Service set for late 2021

Dec. 02, 2020
4 min read
Amtrak new Acela locomotive
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Amtrak unveiled a new video Wednesday that showed off its brand-new Acela train cars performing speed tests near Pueblo, Colorado.

As you can see in the video, the trainset is being put through its paces. The top speed for the trains so far has been 166 mph.

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Amtrak said, "Far from home, with a multinational crew aboard to monitor more than 60 sensors, it has traveled beyond 30,000 miles (48,200 km) and has passed the same location more than 2,200 times at speeds up to 166.8 mph (268.4 kph)."

Amtrak, along with manufacturer Alstrom and the Transportation Technology Center, have been testing wheel force measurements, acceleration, train dynamics, pantograph, traction and braking systems.

The performance testing will continue into early 2021.

Interestingly, the test train is unfinished inside, so it is carrying 130 water barrels (at 60 gallons each) and 2,300 concrete blocks to approximate the weight of the complete interiors.

Related: Acela business class review

Related: Acela first class review

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Amtrak also said, "We are also improving infrastructure and facilities while developing training so our flagship service’s next generation trains can begin carrying customers by the end of 2021."

That's the first firm indication we've had of a timeline for a launch of service.

Amtrak Acela's fancy new interiors

Back in October, we got a look at the interiors of the brand-new Acela train cars that will begin service next year. The cars should make the riding experience better from a customer’s point of view. TPG got a first look at mock-ups of the new trains last summer, but now we’re getting pictures and video of some of the actual cars that will go into service.

“From reliable, onboard wi-fi to enhance your digital experience, to contactless features and technology the new Acela will transform the train travel experience on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor,” said Caroline Decker, Vice President of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Service Line.

Related: Your ultimate guide to Amtrak Guest Rewards

As TPG reported earlier this year, Amtrak had been testing the new high-speed train cars even before the latest Pueblo tests.

Related: Amtrak plans to expand new nonstop Acela service from New York

The new interiors feature a ton of health improvements — key in the age of coronavirus — including touch-less bathrooms, more space between customers, and no touch overhead bins. Amtrak has also instituted enhanced cleaning procedures and mandated masks.

New Amtrak Acela Train cars a five year journey 

High-speed Amtrak locomotive at Alsom factory in Hornell, NY. (Image courtesy Amtrak)

Official plans for the new cars were announced more than four years ago.

Related: Planes, trains and a bus: We raced from NYC to DC to find which was fastest

Amtrak has lagged behind Asian and European high-speed trains systems. These new cars should help fill the gap. The new upgraded Acela Express will be able to reach speeds of up to 160 miles an hour and use at least 20% less energy. Engineers hope the cars will eventually reach up to 186 miles per hour, but that will require major infrastructure improvements in the Northeast Corridor.

Building Amtrak’s new Acela trains

Alstom’s new Amtrak Acela trains. (Image courtesy Amtrak)

Alstom is the French company that's building the new cars. Alstom is the same company behind the high-speed TGV trains that race around France.

The new Amtrak cars are made in America, and are being built at the Alstom manufacturing facility in Hornell, New York.

Amtrak's new cars will hold 378 passengers — hopefully making the trains less crowded. Current capacity is 304.

The trains will also feature a significantly improved hard product, including upgraded amenities. Be sure to check out TPG’s review of the enhanced interiors.

Amtrak’s Acela service between Boston and Washington via New York began service way back in December of 2000.

Featured image by Amtrak new Acela locomotive. (Image courtesy Amtrak)