Amtrak NEC, Downeaster, Acela, & Long Distance

Arlington

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Acela 1s are not expected to have an afterlife. They will go to museums or be scrapped. Buying more Acela 2 (Avelia Liberty) would be a better way of meeting future demand. At most the withdrawal of the Acela 1 will be slow and they'll hang around some extra months.

They require overhead power and high platforms and are therefore not usable in most stations in most markets.

Like many pioneering aircraft (Boeing sea planes, de Havilland Comet) they proved the market but didn't live to see 2.0.

Small fleet. Expensive (nonstandard) parts. Under capacity. Heavy (bad for wear and speed).
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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Whats going to become of the old acela trainsets? Sold? Used on a different route? Turned into an artificial reef on the atlantic continental shelf? I hope they stay in service somewhere... maybe on the “higher speed” hopefully 110mph-ish chicago lines?
Not going to happen. Bombardier has a torturously convoluted lease agreement on them tied to their also-convoluted Service & Support package with Amtrak. In short, ownership reverts back to the manufacturer as soon as the trainsets are not used for their intended purpose covered in the S&S package. They're Bombardier's hunks of scrap metal to dispose of. To repurpose requires renegotiating the whole works, and there was enough contractual bloodshed over the years between AMTK and BBD that neither party is willing to do that. It's the unicornest-of-unicorns, the literal most expensive passenger train in the world to operate. One set will get set aside for a museum, but that hot mess of a design is so obsolete in the world today that repurposing isn't practical for any RR nor for Bombardier who doesn't have the parts supply chain to keep such kooky beasts going any longer than absolutely necessary.

The operating problems are all hidden from the passengers so there's natural first-instinct to think of force-fit options for them (hellloooo mass graves of banned RR.net users who tried to stan for sending them to another life on the Keystone Line!). That's not the reality. This is a mercy killing in any sane cost/benefit world because of how much a searing pain in the ass they are to run and maintain for daily service, and how much the Amtrak-Bombardier marriage on these things has ground both partners to a nub.
 

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Amtrak on track to break even for first time in 50 years

headline of a story about a speech by Dept. of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in which she referred to Nov. 13 testimony before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure by National Railroad Passenger Corporation President and CEO Richard Anderson and Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia.

“We listened, we invested, we improved, and our customers are noticing a difference,” said Amtrak President & CEO Richard Anderson. “And we are not stopping. We have an aggressive plan to continue to advance our safety program, refresh train interiors, improve amenities, and renew stations and infrastructure.”

"Looking at other domestic and foreign passenger rail operators, these results are truly industry-leading, and this efficiency enables us to dedicate the highest possible proportion of our federal support to vital capital investments in safety, capacity and upgrades to enhance our customers' experience while traveling," he added.

“We are growing and modernizing Amtrak. We have an industry-leading safety program and have invested billions in improving the customer experience, resulting in more people choosing Amtrak as their preferred mode of transportation,” said Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia. “These changes have put us on track to breakeven in 2020, which would be a first in Amtrak’s history.”

Some of the back story:
Pres. Anderson said the federally owned passenger railroad had an annual unaudited operating loss of $29.8 million, the best result in company history and a significant improvement over its $170.6 million operating loss in fiscal 2018 Total operating revenue rose 3.6 percent to $3.3 billion. And it managed to improve earnings by $140.9 million, or 82.6 percent over 2018, he testified.

However, The break-even point would not include the cost of Amtrak’s efforts to maintain its infrastructure, according to the Wall Street Journal. Amtrak spent more than $700 on infrastructure repairs and replacements over the last year.

The government-owned rail carrier said 32.5 million riders took trips on Amtrak trains during its fiscal year ending in Sept. 2019, with its northeast corridor and state-supported lines experiencing record growth. The total marked a company record and an increase of 800,000 riders compared to one year earlier.

Amtrak executives also touted the company’s advancements on safety, including its implementation of a safety management system and federally-mandated positive train control, which automatically slows trains to prevent accidents.

The company said its safety improvements let to a 26 percent drop in customer incidents in fiscal 2019. Serious employee injuries dropped by 72 percent.

Amtrak said “nearly all” of its tracks have integrated positive train control systems, which can help automatically stop a train to avoid collisions or derailments.
 

Arlington

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Can we say it now? The PRIIA law(s) were good for Amtrak. A deal cut by W. Bush with a democratic congress, it required two business-like things:
1) that Amtrak compute and charge equipment to routes at something like a normal lease rate (based on replacement value) and that
2) States (not Feds) pay the rates to subsidize the whole category of non-NEC, non-Long Distance trains (<750miles)

Immediately most of Amtrak went from being called "money losing" to being "state supported" and their losses went from being reckoned as a deficit to being reckoned as revenue from state government customers. It also meant having a rational commercial basis (a State's willingness to pay for the shortfall that customers wouldn't pay) for allocating service, rather than just have a well-connected congressional delegation call service into existence on clout alone.

Only Indiana allowed its state supported route to die, while some (Michigan, Virginia, Mass, & Maine) used the resulting agreed-market pricing for Amtrak services to expand service.

North Carolina was also free to create new service where it provided the fleet (of renovated vintage equipment; avoiding Amtrak's equipment rates) for Amtrak to operate. Virginia was able to grow service particularly fast because it also happened to make $ like the NEC (due to the unexpectedly-strong sales of long trips from deep in VA to places like Philly and NYC).
 

Jahvon09

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They are falling apart. Don't know what they'll do with them. There are 20 trainsets. ;)
 

F-Line to Dudley

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They are falling apart. Don't know what they'll do with them. There are 20 trainsets. ;)
Bombardier's problem, not Amtrak's. They get hauled off Amtrak property and taken to a Bombardier storage facility points unknown as soon as the lease expires from X months of disuse and decommissioning. Maybe they'll become the 'totes most luxurious new coral reef off the coast of Nova Scotia or get made into a kids' playscape in a village park in Nunavit like the Russians did with their surplus Space Shuttle airframes after the fall of the USSR.
 

jass

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Im of the opinion that the Acelas should go to the Keystone route, and it's a shame we let ridiculous bureaucracy result in waste.
 

Arlington

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The waste was dialed in more than 20 years ago when the bureaucracy dictated the purchase of a bad fleet..

I am pretty sure the Keystone (Harrisburg to Philadelphia) still does not yet have the high-level platforms required to actually host Acelas. It would also be nice if they finished grade crossing elimination so that they can do more than 110 miles per hour

Once the keystone is ready with its infrastructure it will be perfect for a follow-on order Acela 2.
 

jass

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The waste was dialed in more than 20 years ago when the bureaucracy dictated the purchase of a bad fleet..

I am pretty sure the Keystone (Harrisburg to Philadelphia) still does not yet have the high-level platforms required to actually host Acelas. It would also be nice if they finished grade crossing elimination so that they can do more than 110 miles per hour

Once the keystone is ready with its infrastructure it will be perfect for a follow-on order Acela 2.
Amtrak has no issue putting high-floor cars on low-floor routes in California and Michigan. Theyre spending hundreds of millions on a brand new high-floor fleet where not a single station has a high platform.
 

FitchburgLine

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Amtrak has no issue putting high-floor cars on low-floor routes in California and Michigan. Theyre spending hundreds of millions on a brand new high-floor fleet where not a single station has a high platform.
Acela cars do not (and cannot due to carbody issues) have traps for boarding at low platforms. Your proposal to have all riders do a muscle-up before boarding is unlikely to be popular with everyone, but it would certainly be an effective PR move!
 

Arlington

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Exactly. It is not a question of floor level, it is a question of having stairs hidden under a trap door in the floor (like MBTA & Amtubes do)

So regardless of similar floor heightAmtrak CA/Midwest will have traps and stairs but no Acela has or will.

 

jass

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Acela cars do not (and cannot due to carbody issues) have traps for boarding at low platforms. Your proposal to have all riders do a muscle-up before boarding is unlikely to be popular with everyone, but it would certainly be an effective PR move!
I think if we all put our heads together, we could come up with the technology to ensure that people at ground level can access a door raised above ground level

 

Arlington

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Why this need to rescue the unicorns? Exterior stairs would inflict huge equipment, labor, and dwell time costs, and for what? To save a fleet that is also heavy and brittle?

Acela 1 Motto: we're bad, but we're expensive.

The "stations" money is better spent on high platforms (fast ADA boarding at every door) and the "rolling stock" budget is better spent on new Siemens of either type (Amtube replacement, which will likely be CA/Midwest variants from Siemens or Acela 2 expansion).

Amtube==humorous name for the iconic Amfleet 1s
 
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fattony

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I think if we all put our heads together, we could come up with the technology to ensure that people at ground level can access a door raised above ground level

Yeah, that looks scalable and cost effective. Way better than building high platforms. Its a surprise we don't use those at every train station in the world.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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Im of the opinion that the Acelas should go to the Keystone route, and it's a shame we let ridiculous bureaucracy result in waste.
What part of "most expensive passenger trains in the world to operate" is so hard to understand here? They're Frankenstein design with maint of the extremely unorthodox active-tilt system lighting money on fire every day in the shop, and the parts supply chain is nearly gone requiring custom fabrication to keep them going.

How about solving waste with "Dig UP, stupid!" instead of doubling-down on it. You can't disingenously call it a product of ridiculous bureaucracy then have it both ways hitting that sunk cost harder. We're getting out from under these turkeys to STOP wasting senseless money.
 

FitchburgLine

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I think if we all put our heads together, we could come up with the technology to ensure that people at ground level can access a door raised above ground level
Violating the ADA would be another way of approaching this, yes. Or we could build mini-highs and limit boarding to 1 door per 6 car train. There are a range of bad options, all of which combine with the high operating costs of the Acela Is and crappy rolling stock design to make this a negative-value idea.
 

jass

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Why this need to rescue the unicorns? Exterior stairs would inflict huge equipment, labor, and dwell time costs, and for what? To save a fleet that is also heavy and brittle?
Really, huge equipment costs?

Youre comparing dumping a billion dollar fleet into the ocean with the cost of acquiring stairs that every airport in the world has managed to buy.

Look, Im not saying this will be done, but why are we so eager to jump into the "we can't do this because" frame of mind? What are we, highway engineers discussing sidewalks?

Amtrak: We cant run more trains because we dont have equipment
Also Amtrak: lets dump these trains in the ocean, to go along with all the other trains we have bought but decided to park in the forest because REASONS
 

FitchburgLine

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See above for why stairs are an even less plausible idea, but... what is the actual goal here? If it's "run more Keystone service," the currently in RFP Amfleet 3 order will provide exactly that, with longer, cheaper to operate trains (this is critical since service will run through the tph limited north river tunnels).
 

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