US train operator Amtrak is to pour US$7.3 billion into replacing 83 passenger trains. The new rolling stock, which will all feature on-board WiFi, individual power outlets and USB ports, will replace carriages that are up to 50 years old. However, the ambitious spending spree still needs to be approved by Congress.
Amtrak CEO William Flynn said that some of the new trains, which will be less polluting than the old stock, will be hybrids - able to operate on diesel and electricity where wires are available. The new trains, to be built int the US, will replace Amfleet, Metroliner and state-owned equipment starting in 2024. The railroad has an option to buy 130 additional trains from Siemens
In a recent interview, the CEO said that the trains will be capable of traveling up to 125 mph (201kmh) and will be able to shift from electric to diesel without any associated delay or the need to switch engines. Currently, track conditions often mean trains are limited to 90mph, he said.
The board of Amtrak has, so far, approved spending of up to US$4.9 billion on equipment, parts and service and US$2 billion to modify its facilities. Initially, Amtrak will buy 73 trains and a 20-year parts and service agreement for about US$3.4 billion.
The train company boasted record ridership figures of 32.4 million fare-paying passengers in 2019, in pre-pandemic times. At the moment, passenger volume is a respectable 62% of what it was in 2019 with the company operating 201 trains a day, compared to 310 in pre-Covid days. Flynn expects the schedule to be fully restored by September or October of this year.
The infrastructure bill proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden has US$66 billion earmarked for freight and passenger rail. Biden has been a regular passenger on the Amtrak service between Washington and his home in Wilmington, Delaware. Supporters say that increased use of public transit and rail would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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