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Acela Trains May Return by Summer

Service Restoration To Be Gradual as Repairs Are Made

By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page E01

Amtrak said yesterday that it expects to have its high-speed Acela Express trains running again by summer but did not offer a specific timetable for restoring full service on the high-speed premium line, which was suspended last week because of a brake problem.

Under a new schedule announced yesterday, Amtrak said it plans to add 13 Metroliner trains between Washington and New York starting Monday to help make up for the Acela's lost capacity. The Acela typically made 15 trips each weekday between the two cities and 11 trips between New York and Boston. The railroad said it is gathering train cars from across the country to bulk up its Northeast corridor fleet.

Acela train service in the Northeast corridor is suspended until brake problems are fixed. Service is expected to be restored gradually as repairs are made. (Haraz Ghanbari -- AP)

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Amtrak chief executive David L. Gunn said Acela trains will return to service as they are repaired. "The trains will come back gradually," he said. "They will not come back all at once."

Amtrak shut down the Acela line last Thursday night after discovering millimeter-sized cracks in brake components during routine testing.

The cause of the cracks is still unknown. William L. Crosbie, senior vice president of operations at Amtrak, said Amtrak still does not have an explanation for what caused cracks in about 300 out of the 1,440 disk-brake rotors in the 20-train Acela fleet. He said a team of engineers and metallurgists is evaluating the defect.

Both Crosbie and David Slack, a spokesman for the train's manufacturer, Bombardier Inc., said the part will probably require a redesign.

"With 300 disks with cracks in them, there's an issue and I think everybody on the face of the planet is aware of that," Slack said. "At the end of the day, we need to find a permanent fix. Just ordering more of the same part isn't the answer."

Slack said that the now-cracked disk-brake rotors were expected to last about 1 million miles before needing replacement. He figured that the Acela parts had gotten "half a million miles, maybe 600,000" miles of use.

Each Acela train has 72 brakes, but Crosbie said there are only 70 replacement disks available.

Montreal-based Bombardier is working with its suppliers, Knorr and Wabco, to get enough replacement parts to restore Acela service, Slack said, but the company does not know how long that will take.

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