Monday, September 24, 2012

Amtrak steps up NEC higher-speed initiatives

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

In service since late 2000, Amtrak’s Acela Express high speed trainsets have operated at a maximum speed of 135 mph on the New York-Washington segment of the Northeast Corridor, and at 150 mph on two short segments in Rhode Island and Massachusetts on the New York-Boston route.

Now, for a two-week-long period beginning Sept. 24, Amtrak plans to operate test trains at 165 mph in four areas that collectively cover more than 100 miles of the NEC.

Amtrak said the tests in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts “are at locations that may at some future time experience regular 160-mph service.”

The tests will utilize high-speed Acela Express equipment and will measure vehicle/track interaction and other safety factors, and ride quality. The test runs will be performed at 5 mph above the expected maximum operating speed of 160 mph, under FRA regulations.

The test areas between Perryville, Md. and Wilmington, Del. (21.3 miles) and Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J. (22.9 miles) currently have a maximum speed limit of 135 mph. The test areas between Westerly and Cranston, R.I. (29.2 miles) and South Attleboro and Readville, Mass. (27.8 miles) currently have a maximum speed limit of 150 mph. These areas were used for similar high-speed tests before the introduction of Acela Express service.

The initial test run is in New Jersey on the Trenton-New Brunswick “Raceway,” where Amtrak is presently advancing design, engineering, and other pre-construction activities for a $450 million project funded by the federal high-speed rail program. The project includes upgrading track, electrical power, signal systems, and overhead catenary wires to improve reliability for Amtrak and commuter rail service, and to permit train operations at faster speeds. Amtrak says some construction activity is anticipated in 2013, but the project “will ramp up dramatically thereafter to be completed in 2017.”