Amtrak, Calif. join forces to design new high-speed trains

Posted: January 19, 2013

Amtrak and California will work together to design new high-speed trains to operate on the East and West Coasts, rail officials said Thursday.

Amtrak would get its trains first, but California's would be faster.

California is planning a 220-m.p.h. high-speed line that will operate between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with the first 130-mile segment currently scheduled to be in operation in 2022.

Amtrak wants to buttress its existing Acela Express fleet with trains that can match the Acela's current top speed of 150 m.p.h. and are capable of being modified to run up to 220 m.p.h. on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston.

Eventually, that would allow 37-minute trips between Philadelphia and New York, 94-minute trips between New York and Washington, and 2½-hour trips between Philadelphia and Boston.

Amtrak has estimated that it will cost $151 billion and take until 2040 to complete a rebuilt 438-mile Northeast Corridor.

In Washington on Thursday, Amtrak president Joseph Boardman and California High-Speed Rail Authority chief executive Jeff Morales said they would join forces to develop high-speed trains that could operate on both coasts.

California and Amtrak hope to buy trains with many of the same features, as a way to save money and help jump-start an American industry to build such trains.

"We want to develop a high-speed rail industry here in the United States," Morales said Thursday. "We want this to be the next aerospace industry."

The "request for information" issued Thursday seeks manufacturers' proposals on how to replace all the Acelas gradually with entirely new, faster trains. By September, Amtrak will seek bids for such trains, with plans to place an order in 2014.

The first of the new trains isn't likely to arrive until at least 2017.

Amtrak envisions buying 12 new train sets to add to its current fleet and to replace the 20 existing Acela train sets in the early 2020s.

California is seeking initially to buy 27 train sets capable of carrying 450 to 500 passengers per train.

The trains likely would cost $35 million to $55 million each, Boardman said.

Because of the different requirements for operating on the brand-new California line and the existing Northeast Corridor, there would have to be some differences in the trains.

Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or

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