Amtrak will officially begin testing its high-speed Acela train

Feb 19, 2020

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Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new information regarding official Amtrak testing. It was originally published on Nov. 14, 2019.

New state-of-the-art Acela train cars are one step closer to hitting the rails in 2021.

On Thursday, Feb. 13, Amtrak announced it would begin testing its high-speed Acela trains.

The trains left the Alstom manufacturing facility in Hornell, New York on Feb. 17 and are making their way to the Transportation Technology Center near Pueblo, Colorado, where they will undergo nine months of rigorous testing.

Amtrak released stunning photos of the trainset heading west on Twitter, including a map of the journey. Train enthusiasts can watch for the prototype as it travels along the route used by the Amtrak Lake Shore Limited and Southwest Chief trains. It will pass through Chicago, before ultimately arriving in Colorado on Wednesday, Feb. 19. 

Once all of the trials are complete, the trains will make their way back to New York, where the interiors will be installed.

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Last year, Amtrak released images of the first prototype being constructed at Alstom. Here’s a look at what the futuristic train cars will look like, without the interiors:

This train has been in the works for quite some time: Official plans were announced almost four years ago, in August 2016. The U.S. train system has consistently lagged behind Europe and Asia’s high-speed fleets.

That’s why Amtrak brought in Alstom, the French company responsible for the high-speed TGV trains that crisscross France.

Amtrak’s upgraded Acela Express will be able to reach speeds up to 160 miles per hour, or 10 miles per hour faster than current cars. They will also use 20% less energy. Engineers hope the cars will eventually reach up to 186 miles per hour, but that will require major infrastructure improvements.

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

In addition to faster and more efficient service, the new trains will be able to accommodate more passengers — 378 passengers to be exact, which is up from 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.

Featured photo courtesy of Amtrak.

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