Amtrak and their misplaced priorities.

Amtrak has begun testing high-speed trains at 165 miles per hour over 100 miles of track in the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak said.

The tests are being conducted on stretches of track in Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, where the current top speed is 135 miles per hour, as well as stretches in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, where the top speed is 150 miles per hour, Amtrak said.

“If they are successful, then we hope at some point to be able to increase the top speed to 160 miles per hour,” said Cliff Cole, Amtrak spokesman. Test runs must be performed at 5 miles per hour above the expected maximum.

Amtrak officials will measure the interaction between the Acela Express train and the track, ride quality, and safety.

The increased speeds will not significantly decrease trip times, Cole said. Instead, he said, “If we implement it, it will be bring more reliable service to customers.”


Here is the official Amtrak Press Release:

Beginning tonight and continuing into next week, Amtrak plans to operate high-speed test trains at 165 mph in four areas covering more than 100 miles of the Northeast Corridor. The tests in Maryland / Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are locations that may at some future time experience regular 160 mph service.

The tests will utilize high-speed Acela Express equipment and will measure the interaction between the train and the track, rider quality and other safety factors. The test runs must be performed at 5 mph above the expected maximum operating speed of 160 mph.

The test areas between approximately Perryville, Md. – Wilmington, Del. (21.3 miles) and Trenton – New Brunswick, N.J. (22.9 miles) currently have a maximum speed limit of 135 mph. The test areas between approximately Westerly – Cranston, R.I. (29.2 miles) and South Attleboro – Readville, Mass. (27.8 miles) currently have a maximum speed limit of 150 mph. The same areas were used for similar high-speed tests before the introduction of Acela service.

The initial test run is in New Jersey where Amtrak is presently advancing design, engineering and other pre-construction activities for a $450 million project funded by the federal high-speed rail program. The project includes upgrading track, electrical power, signal systems and overhead catenary wires to improve reliability for Amtrak and commuter rail service, and is necessary to permit regular train operations at the faster speeds. Some construction activity is anticipated in 2013, but the project will ramp up dramatically thereafter to be completed in 2017. 

And this is me talking: with the NorthEast Corridor track being so bad I just can not see how Amtrak would be able to keep passengers in their seats at 150 mph. On a recent Amtrak trip to New York City from DC it was virtually impossible to do any work on my laptop. The train swayed, shook and hunted so badly that I could not type on the keyboard and finally gave up around Perryville. On top of that is the issue of the catenary on the NorthEast Corridor. On a considerable part of the NEC the overhead is ancient, woefully inadequate and, worse of all, not self adjusting. Since Amtrak admits that higher speeds would not significantly shorten travel times at this point, maybe it would behoove them to get their infrastructure in better shape. Instead of spending their rare dollars on high speed "testing", spend it on bringing the track up to first world standards.

Amtrak "Acela" on the NorthEast Corridor in Saybrook, Connecticut (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)


Amtrak "Acela" train on the NEC in South Boston (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)



Amtrak "Regional" Train with a HHP-8 electric locomotive on the NorthEast Corridor (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)