Amtrak to buy 70 electric locomotives for Northeast, Keystone corridors

By Jennifer Buske
Saturday, October 30, 2010

Amtrak plans to add 70 new electric locomotives to its fleet in an effort to improve and expand service along the Northeast Corridor and through Pennsylvania, officials said Friday.

The electric locomotives will be more reliable and efficient, replacing the current fleet of 64, which is between 20 and 30 years old, Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm said. The company ordered six additional locomotives for future expansion, he said.

Kulm said the locomotives will arrive in February 2013 for use on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Richmond and the Keystone Corridor, which extends from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pa. The Northeast stretch is Amtrak's busiest corridor, serving about 7 million passengers in fiscal 2010.

Amtrak's master plan for the Northeast Corridor estimates that ridership between Washington and Boston is expected to double by 2030. It was up almost 6 percent overall in the last fiscal year andreached record levels, serving 28.7 million passengers, according to Amtrak data.

"This new equipment will go far in meeting the rapidly growing demand for intercity passenger rail service in the Northeast," Federal Rail Administrator Joseph C. Szabo said in a statement.

Amtrak awarded a $466 million, six-year contract to Siemens to build the locomotives - a move that creates 250 jobs in Sacramento, Calif., and in Ohio and Georgia, Amtrak officials said.

The locomotives meet the latest federal safety regulations, Amtrak officials said. They also include components that dissipate energy from crashes and couplers designed to keep the train upright and on the tracks in the event of a collision.

Kulm said the locomotives are also more environmentally friendly. They have a braking system that generates electricity when applied to help provide light and heat to passenger compartments and channels electricity back to the power grid for all trains to use. Kulm said this technology is only available on some of Amtrak's equipment today.

The locomotives are the second major equipment purchase for Amtrak since July, when the company awarded a $298 million contract to build 130 single-level passenger rail cars. Kulm said these purchases and others are outlined in Amtrak's strategic plan, which calls for the replacement and the expansion of the entire fleet by 2040.

Amtrak unveiled a vision this fall for high-speed rail on the East Coast that would reduce the travel time between Washington and New York from 162 minutes to 96 minutes. The trains will operate at the same speed as existing ones, but Amtrak officials said turnaround times will be quicker because the engines are expected to have fewer mechanical issues.

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