News & Reviews News Wire New Acelas face further delays

New Acelas face further delays

By Trains Staff | May 30, 2023

| Last updated on February 5, 2024

Debut now not expected to 2024, placing pressure on first-generation Acela equipment

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An Acela power car under construction at Alstom’s Hornell, N.Y., facility on June 12, 2019. Newly announced delays mean the next-generation Acelas won’t enter service until 2024, some three years late. Bob Johnston

WASHINGTON — Launch of service for Amtrak’s next-generation Acela trainsets has been pushed back into 2024, the Washington Post reports, as testing and computer simulations continue to find problems, most recently with the train’s wheelsets.

High speed trains meet on S curve
Amtrak Acela trains meet on the S curve at Elizabeth, N.J., in August 2019. Delayed introduction of the new Acela equipment is placing increasing pressure on the existing equipment. David Lassen

That means the new trains will enter service at least three years late, placing increasing pressure on the existing Acela fleet that dates to 2000. Trains News Wire has learned that four of the 20 first-generation Acela sets have been withdrawn from service. Two New York-Washington Acela round trips were dropped from the schedule as of May 8; an Amtrak spokesman said this was “due to a need to perform additional maintenance on Acela equipment.”

Alstom, which is building the 28 new high-speed trainsets, said in a statement to the Post that “modeling of the wheel-to-track interface is particularly complex due to age, condition, and specific characteristics of Amtrak infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor, and especially the existing tracks.” The company said it has been “conducting extensive investigations” to ensure the trains will operate safely and is “confident that this extensive process will demonstrate compatibility of the latest generation of high-speed technology with existing [Amtrak] infrastructure.”

Sources tell News Wire that the computer modeling designed to predict the trainsets’ operating characteristics and enable them to reach maximum speeds over 150 mph were confirmed on the test track at Pueblo, Colo., but could not be verified on some Northeast Corridor sections. Track quality has been upgraded on New Jersey tracks between Trenton and New Brunswick, and Amtrak already hosts legacy Acela trainsets at 150 mph over portions of right-of-way upgraded in the 1990s in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, but track quality varies widely elsewhere.

Amtrak and Alstom announced a $2.45 billion deal to build the new equipment in 2016, with a 2021 target to begin service [see “Amtrak, Alstom reach $2.45 billion deal,” News Wire, Aug. 26, 2016]. But modifications to the trains’ catenary systems — which would lose contact with the catenary wire at top speed — pushed the debut back [see “News report says debut of new Acelas will be delayed by a year,” News Wire, June 3, 2021]. A delay to 2023 was attributed to further testing and modifications [see “Alstom explains latest delay …,” News Wire, April 8, 2022].

Amtrak told the Post last week that “further refinement of analysis, simulations and testing” are needed. Alstom said it has delivered six trainsets to the passenger operator and is preparing to deliver the seventh.

“We want our customers to experience these new trains as soon as possible, but Amtrak cannot operate them for passenger service until Alstom has completed testing and meets all safety requirements,” Amtrak said in a statement to the Post.

Train passing through station
A new Acela trainset passes the Amtrak/Shore Line East station at Old Saybrook, Conn., on April 5, 2021. Testing issues have further delayed the equipment’s debut. Scott A. Hartley

19 thoughts on “New Acelas face further delays

  1. Back when the 1st Acela’s showed up at 30th st Station, a lot of the M-E employes came up with what the Name really stood for after months of testing. soon all of us who worked there knew it. A_mtrak C_ustomers E_xpect L_ate A_rrivals. It will live on in these lemons.

  2. Alstom is a French company. When the French X996 C-C monomoter (one motor per truck; powers all the wheels) (SNCF CC 21003, an Alsthom product, as it was spelled then) tested in 1977, it derailed everywhere it went. Alsthom demanded Amtrak renew ALL their track immediately. Instead they looked at the Swedish Rc4 X995 which tolerated Amtrak’s railroad (not that long after Penn Central) and led to Amtrak’s fleet of AEM-7 motors.

    The NEC is in much better condition now. The current Acelas run well, the ACS-64’s run well, the commuter MU’s run well. The Acela II’s have problems. What’s the outlier here?

  3. Another example of how far this country has sunk to all time low levels. We can’t build or invent anything anymore that works or is guaranteed to give reliable service for years. We can;t build modern trainsets that work, our auto industry can’t build decent cars our airlines and airplanes are coming apart at the seams and now even our space program which is scheduled to put humand back on the moon by 2025 is falling behind with delays and failures. The only thing this country is good for now is boasting and bragging on promises and ideas that we can’t deliver on anymore. Any wonder that the United States is the laughingstock of the world and has lost the respect of all. All we can do and are good at is promoting divison, discord and hatred. This country which was once a leader in technology and innovation and design can’t build anything that will work and all we can do is argue and debate and boast about empty dreams and promises and grand schemes and plans that will never get off the drawing board or ground floor. A shame indeed.
    Joseph C. Markfelder

  4. I could ask, what’s so cool about another 10mph or 20mph? NEC hits the max speed only on small portions of the route: near Mansfield, Massachusetts, southern Rhode Island, and central New Jersey. A few miles at a slightly higher speed won’t change much. Frequency and reliability are what attract people to trains, not shaving a few more minutes off the schedule.

    Two of those max speed areas are in double-track territory. The freights are almost negligible (Attleboro to Mansfield, about three miles, once a night, etc.) but commuter trains aren’t going away.

    NEC is what it is.

    1. “Frequency and reliability are what attract people to trains, not shaving a few more minutes off the schedule.” Truer words in the world of passenger train services and their operations were never spoken.

  5. The TGV and other European trains run on “legacy track” in Europe regularly, are Amtrak’s tracks that worse than tracks shared with commuter and freight trains in Europe? Perhaps Amtrak should have bought 250-kph Pendolinos that run on upgraded mainlines in Europe, including the West Coast Main Line in Britain.

  6. They have had literally YEARS to test the first sets to roll off the line.

    For something like this now is ridiculous.

    This is off the shelf equipment.

    Was everyone asleep?

    Brightline is making Amtrak look dull and lazy.

  7. Amtrak mgmt is probably as much behind the delay as the manf with the poor ridership numbers that continue to come out of the NEC especially for premium business travel as the Acela is marketed for. This market has long been a poor performer when compared to normal svc & will only get weaker as new technology makes in person mtgs no longer necessary & saves big $$$. All this money wasted on the poorest performer in the system & in a market that is already saturated with transportation options when that money could be better spent elsewhere to serve those with little or no other options.

  8. I thought I read somewhere that the TGVs use cylindrical wheels but I can’t find it now on the internet. Does anyone know that? I wonder if the new Avelias were built with cylindrical wheels and that is the issue now?

  9. Now AX-1s are getting cannibalized because Amtrak has not ordered enough spare parts. You would think that it would have learned the lessons from past delays of new equipment. But no, again it is the same old same old. Would not bet against the probability that some major defect will happen to each new equipment ordered that will not have a major with drawl of services for some reason. The P=42s are failing and what happens if the new Siemens have a problem? 3 day a week LD trains?

    1. The new Siemens Long Distance locomotives DO have a reliability problem. Back in the 1940’s-1950’s the Baldwin BP60 Centipedes and BP20 Sharks were unreliable. PRR ran K4s 4-6-2’s on the North Jersey Coast pretty much to the end of steam anywhere on PRR in 1957.

    2. All you have to do is look at the picks of BNSF locomotives on the head end of the Builder. Also waiting to see how many problems plague regular service once these trains are put into regular service.

  10. It seems like Amtrak is such a mess, I can’t see how any company can successfully build anything for them. So we wait, and wait….

    1. The problem with this suggestion is, of course, where does the money to do these repairs come from?

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