Amtrak Takes First Step to Re-Equip Long-Distance Network

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
California Zephyr (Photo Courtesy of Amtrak)

California Zephyr (Photo Courtesy of Amtrak)

Amtrak has announced that 10 manufacturers have submitted their ideas on replacement railcars for such overnight routes as Auto Train, California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Empire Builder and Southwest Chief, marking the “first formal step to completely reequip the Amtrak Long-Distance Network that provides vital service on 14 overnight routes from coast to coast,” the railroad reported Jan. 19.

Last month, Amtrak sent a Request For Information (RFI) to potential suppliers “defining and describing the scope of the railroad’s overnight train fleet,” including Superliner I and II, Viewliner I and II and Amfleet II railcars, and solicited input from manufacturers regarding the replacement of this equipment. As part of this effort, Amtrak says it is also researching design elements and customer amenities to “evolve overnight and cross-country train travel in the coming decades.”

Later this year, Amtrak says it plans to take the next step by issuing a formal procurement request. Funding for the future purchases is being provided to Amtrak through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) enacted by Congress and the Biden Administration in 2021.

“Purchasing new long distance train cars will allow Amtrak to upgrade and modernize the iconic and vital overnight services that link our nation’s major regions,” said Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia. “We are looking for new trains that improve safety, reliability, accessibility and efficiency while offering the features our customers believe are most important to modernizing overnight train travel for the 21st century.”

“This represents the final phase in our long-term plan to replace our trains—beginning with new Acela equipment and continuing with the Amtrak Airo™ trains announced last month,” Coscia said. “We believe in the future of our Long-Distance service, and we look forward to enhancing the customer experience across the Amtrak network, and further supporting U.S. manufacturing.”

The existing fleet of overnight railcars has been delivered to Amtrak over the course of 40 years—with the first of more than 800 cars entering service in 1979. Most of the equipment in the current fleet will approach the end of its service life after the next decade.

Last year, Amtrak ordered 125 new Siemens ALC-32 diesel-electric locomotives, primarily for use on Long Distance routes. Over the past two years, Amtrak has invested $580 million toward $1.75 billion in accessibility improvements at Amtrak stations—largely along these routes. Additionally, Amtrak dedicated $28 million to refresh railcars in the current overnight fleet, aiming to bridge the future fleet’s arrival.

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