Amtrak on March 31 provided a look inside its new Acela trainsets from Alstom that it said will now enter Northeast Corridor service in fall 2023—another delay.
The 28 trainsets, ordered in 2016, were originally slated to enter revenue service in fall 2021, but combined COVID-19-related supply chain problems and technical glitches pushed their release until early spring 2022. When asked by Railway Age to explain the new 2023 service date, Amtrak said: “We want our customers to experience these new trainsets as soon as possible, but at Amtrak, we will never compromise safety and testing. Alstom needs to complete extensive computer modeling and simulation tests and ensure they meet FRA’s safety requirements with this latest generation of high speed technology. The fact is these are the first trainsets built under FRA’s Tier III rule, which sets new design specifications to allow for operation at the highest speeds and on shared corridors. We hope this will be the first of many trains built under this new framework and that the lessons learned here will benefit those efforts.”
“America’s Railroad” held a media event in Philadelphia to unveil the interiors of the production trainset, which it said will offer “enhancements in comfort, technology, innovation and safety.”
Business Class—designated by the color “blue” (pictured above)—will include 378 seats on each train, providing “spacious, high-end comfort,” according to Amtrak. Available at every seat: Personal outlets, USB ports, and adjustable reading lights. The section will also feature streamlined overhead luggage compartments.
Additional Business Class amenities will include tray tables; complimentary Wi-Fi; an advanced seat reservation system; an onboard information system providing location, train speed and conductor announcements; and head rests with “wings”—“so you don’t fall asleep on your neighbor,” Amtrak pointed out.
Distinguished by the color “red,” First Class (pictured above) will provide seats with more space and leg room as well as personal tray tables, according to Amtrak.
The café car (pictured above) will feature a self-select and check-out option, standing-room area with hip rests, electrical outlets for charging, digital screens for sharing information, and trash receptacles (half of which will be for recycling).
“Between the sleek design of their interiors, state-of-the-art technology, and sustainable amenities, and innovative safety features, our new Acela trains will help revolutionize American train travel,” Amtrak President and CEO Stephen Gardner said. “Thanks to Senator [Charles] Schumer’s [D-N.Y.] strong leadership and commitment to improving high-speed rail and Amtrak service in New York and throughout the nation, and the hard work of Alstom, Amtrak employees and our other partners, travelers will experience improved, modern and smoother service on the Northeast Corridor and provide this country with the type of modern train travel we deserve when these trains are ready for service next year.”
“We are thankful for our partnership with Amtrak and excited to bring the world’s most technology advanced high-speed trains to the United States,” Alstom Americas President Michael Keroullé said. “These high-speed trains are proudly built by our team in Hornell, in partnership with the International Association of Machinists, and rely on a strong domestic U.S. rail supply base with nearly 250 suppliers in 27 states. We greatly appreciate the continued support from our federal, state and local partners along with Senator Schumer, New York Empire State Development, and the Hornell IDA who have played a vital role to help realize this transformational rail project for the Northeast Corridor and entire U.S. rail industry.”
Amtrak first revealed the trainset interiors in 2018, and in 2019, Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono saw mock-ups at Alstom’s plant in New Castle, Del. How do the production trainset interiors differ from the mock-ups? Amtrak provided Railway Age with the following details:
- “The production trainset seat-back tray tables do not have a second smaller ‘table’, although they do have a single cup holder.
- “The production trainset foot rests are slightly different.
- “The production trainset headrest design is slightly different.
- “The production trainset grab handles on the aisle side of the headrests do not have the Amtrak logo.
- “The production trainset display screen in café car above self-service food items will be one long screen, not two screens as seen in the mock-ups.
- “The car length of the production trainset passenger vehicles with seating (Business and 1st Class) is much longer (not to scale) than in the mock-up. The café car mock-up was a full size replica/model.”