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Acela Trains May Return by Summer

Unlike Amtrak's other trains -- the Metroliner and regional trains -- the Acela fleet is maintained by the consortium of companies that was contracted to build it, Montreal-based Bombardier and Alstom. Amtrak is scheduled to take over maintenance of Acela trains next year, Gunn said.

Gunn said he did not expect that Amtrak will have to pay for the fix because the trains are still under warranty from Bombardier and Alstom.

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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When service was initially suspended, Amtrak officials said it would be down until today. On Monday, the railroad ran one Acela train between Washington and New York, but it halted the service again when mechanics discovered at the end of the trip that the wheels on one side of the cars were more worn than those on the other side.

Crosbie said the wheel wear on that train was a routine maintenance issue, unrelated to the brake problem. But it convinced him that it was too much trouble to run Acela trains again until a comprehensive solution to the brake problem was found.

Gunn said the increased schedule of Metroliner trains "should allow us to retain the lion's share" of revenue that the Acela line brings in for the railroad.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy about the loss of the trains," he said. "Ridership on the [Northeast] corridor is growing, and the Acela provides a significant amount of capacity," he said.

But Gunn also said he does not expect to lose many Amtrak customers as a result of the suspended Acela service because there had already been some migration by passengers from Acela trains to the less-expensive Metroliner trains. He noted that Metroliner trips offer "almost the same premium service" and sometimes are only 10 minutes slower than the higher-priced Acela trains.

Howard Kipen, a business traveler about to hop on a Metroliner train on his return trip to New York City yesterday afternoon, was not troubled by having to ride a different train than usual. Kipen said the only drawbacks of taking a Metroliner instead of his scheduled Acela train were that he had to call Amtrak to rebook his ticket and that it was less comfortable to work on his laptop computer in the Metroliner trains.

Still, he lamented the struggling status of the railroad, which has lost $500 million each year for the past 10 years. "I think it's sad that they're in this state," he said. "This is the only part of the country where you can travel efficiently by train -- and it's broke."

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