Amtrak Increasing Acela Speeds in New Jersey

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor, Railway Track & Structures
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Amtrak’s Alstom-built Acela II trainsets are expected to enter revenue service in mid-2023. Amtrak photo.

Amtrak passengers can now travel even faster on Acela as recent infrastructure improvements along a 16-mile segment of the Northeast Corridor in New Jersey between South Brunswick (Monmouth Junction) and Trenton known as the Raceway can accommodate speeds of up to 150 mph.

This project, part of the New Jersey High-Speed Rail Improvement program and a $450 million investment by U.S. DOT, “is the first of many speed upgrades anticipated in the NEC that lay the framework for future trip time reduction and improves the reliability of intercity and commuter services on one of the most heavily used sections of the NEC,” Amtrak said.

The Raceway portion of the NEC in New Jersey stretches from Monmouth Junction to Trenton. OpenRailwayMap.com screen shot.

“The upgrades coming from the New Jersey High-Speed Rail Improvement Program exemplify our continual commitment to upgrade the Northeast Corridor and transform the customer experience as we welcome more passengers back on board,” said Amtrak President and CEO Stephen Gardner. “Thanks to the hard work by Amtrak’s Infrastructure Maintenance & Construction Services Team and our DOT and commuter partners [at New Jersey Transit], our customers will experience more reliable and faster trains and better on-time performance on this busy section of the NEC.”

The completed scope included installation of new signal power cables, new catenary (overhead wire) supports and wire renewal, installation of high-speed turnouts, and renewed power substations. An additional eight miles of catenary between Monmouth Junction and New Brunswick are currently being upgraded, with completion and speed increases expected in 2024.

Upgrading of NEC catenary from Monmouth Junction to New Brunswick is under way. OpenRailwayMap.com screen shot.

“These speeds are the fastest of any train in North America and match top speeds in parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island,” Amtrak said. “Additionally, the upgrades will allow the new Acela II trains to achieve speeds of 160 mph when introduced in Fall 2023, further solidifying the NEC as a high-speed rail corridor and allowing Amtrak to further reduce trip time in the years ahead.”

Amtrak has also restored more Acela service to its schedule, with 10 daily round-trip trains between New York and Washington, and nine round-trip trains operating between Boston and New York, “providing improved schedule utility and more frequency for customers,” Amtrak noted. ”Being able to easily travel from/to city centers, Acela offers competitive trip times with fewer stops, free Wi-Fi, the freedom to use phones and electronic devices at all times (no ‘airplane mode’), the ability to travel with small pets, large spacious seats with ample leg room, and no middle seat.”

Further reading:

High Speed Rail in The Northeast: What Next?

Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono contributed to this story.

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