Monday, January 14, 2013

Amtrak, CHSRA plan joint HSR gear order

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Two U.S. high speed rail players, Amtrak and the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), will combine efforts to advance a joint order of up to 62 high speed rail trainsets, with a Request for Information (RFI) possibly issued as early as this Thursday.

The combined order presumably would offer economies of scale for both entities and the supplier, since California seeks HSR equipment capable of 220 mph speeds. For Amtrak's part, Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman last month said the company “is advancing plans to acquire new next-generation high-speed trainsets and ending its plans to purchase 40 additional high speed passenger cars to add to the existing Acela Express fleet."

The joint plan, first reported by Trains magazine, would direct 32 trainsets to Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, with 30 being delivered to the Golden State.

Trains attributed the collaborative effort to Frank Vacca, now CHSRA's chief program manager and formerly with Amtrak as chief engineer.

One industry source very familiar with HSR and Capitol Hill politics told Railway Age Vacca may indeed have played a key role, but also noted another potential player as a unifying factor: CHSRA CEO and Executive Director Jeffrey P. Morales, who served in Washington as transportation aide to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) from 1983 to 1993. Lautenberg's office during that time often took the lead in defending Amtrak from anti-rail partisans intent on dismantling the national intercity passenger rail network.

Morales began his stint with CHSRA last May, after serving with numerous transport-related entities, including Chicago Transit Authority and the California Department of Transportation.