Saturday, August 27, 2016

Alstom lands Amtrak next-gen NEC trainset contract

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Avelia Liberty for Amtrak Avelia Liberty for Amtrak Alstom

No surprise, thanks to Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) very public visit to Alstom’s Hornell, N.Y. manufacturing plant on Sept. 21, 2015: Amtrak, as expected, has contracted with Alstom to supply 28 “next-generation high-speed” trainsets that will replace popular yet aging and technically problematic Acela Express equipment.

01 Tilting Option AThe contract is part of $2.45 billion “that will be invested on the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor (NEC) as part of a multifaceted modernization program to renew and expand the Acela Express service,” Amtrak said when announcing the contract on Aug. 26, 2016. The official unveiling occurred at Amtrak’s Wilmington, Del., station on the NEC, and it was given by, among others, one of Amtrak’s staunchest supporters and valued customers—Vice President Joe Biden, who in his days as a U.S. Senator from Delaware, commuted almost daily between his home in his home state and his office in Washington D.C.

Amtrak and Alstom also signed a long-term contract under which Alstom will provide long-term technical support and supply spare components and parts. Combined, these contracts are worth $2 billion.

The new trainsets will be based on Alstom’s iconic and venerable TGV, in service round the globe for more than 35 years. Alstom’s North American version, which like the Acela Express will be a tilting trainset with power cars at each end but unlike the aptly-nicknamed “Fast Pig” will be articulated, is called the “Avelia Liberty.” It will have one-third more passenger seats, modern amenities that can be upgraded as customer preferences evolve such as improved Wi-Fi access, personal outlets, USB ports and adjustable reading lights at every seat, enhanced food service and “a smoother, more reliable ride.”

Alstom describes the Avelia Liberty as the latest development in its high-speed trainset portfoilio. “The new trainset will be able to carry up to 33% more passengers than the current Acela Express trains,” Alstom said. “Its configuration includes an innovative compact power car and nine passenger cars, with the possibility of three more being added if demand grows. The train is capable of travelling at speeds up to 300 kph (186 mph), but will initially operate at a maximum speed of 257 kph (160 mph) based on NEC track speed limits. Additionally, each concentrated power car is equipped with Alstom’s pioneering Crash Energy Management (CEM) system. Another key feature is the trainset’s articulated architecture, which provides greater stability and passenger comfort while enhancing safety. The Avelia Liberty also includes Alstom’s innovative Tiltronix anticipative tilting technology, which allows it to negotiate curves safely and more comfortably at high speeds.”

The trainsets will also meet current Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) safety guidelines, including a Crash Energy Management system. Amtrak is funding the trainsets and related NEC infrastructure improvements through an FRA RRIF (Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing) loan that will be repaid “through growth in NEC revenues.” They will be manufactured at Alstom’s Hornell and Rochester, N.Y., facilities, creating 400 local jobs. Additionally, components will come from more than 350 suppliers in more than 30 U.S. states, generating an additional 1,000 jobs. U.S. content, which includes labor costs, is pegged at 95%.

In addition to the trainsets, Amtrak is also investing in infrastructure “needed to improve the on-board and station customer experience that will accommodate the increased high-speed rail service levels.” Amtrak will invest in significant station improvements at Washington Union Station and Penn (Moynihan) Station New York, as well as in track capacity and ride quality improvements to the NEC that will benefit Acela Express riders and other Amtrak and regional/commuter rail passengers. Amtrak will also modify fleet maintenance facilities to accommodate the new trainsets.

A prototype Avelia Liberty is expected to be ready in 2019, with the first trainset entering revenue service in 2021. All of the trainsets are expected to be in service, and the current fleet retired, by the end of 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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