Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Joined up thinking

Posted in America, Business, Rolling stock by Chairman Pip on 18 January 2013

I saw a story come through yesterday on the Railway Gazette feed in regards to the procurement of new high speed trains that Amtrak announced back in December. You may recall that Amtrak plan to replace the existing Acela Express fleet with new, purpose built units that will go together with the planned infrastructure improvements intended to increase speeds on the Northeast Corridor. Well, Amtrak have made further announcements in regards to this that make a little more sense – first of all is that the procurement wil be in two parts, with the first tranche of twelve trains intended to be used alongside the existing fleet, thus increasing the capacity available for the service; a second order “in the early 2020s” would then replace the current Acela fleet. But it is the second element of the announcement that is more interesting. Amtrak has joined together with CHSR to develop a “US standard” specification for high speed trains in the United States, which makes sense in cost terms as it means each organisation (and any subsequent one, such as XpressWest) won’t have to spend a fortune developing their own spec for their trains. Additionally, by banding together it provides an impetus to potentially allow international companies to introduce domestic supply chains in the US to allow these products to be built and assembled domestically. There was though something of additional interest that I made note of – one of Amtrak’s requirements is for their trains to be able to operate successfully both at 350km/h on any potential new build line, and 240km/h on existing upgraded infrastructure. The current Acela fleet can operate at these speeds due to the fact that they can tilt, which suggests that this would be included in any new specification, given that, no matter what upgrades may be done to the existing route, it will still follow pretty much the same path, and if they need tilting trains now, they’ll still need them in ten years time. This got me thinking that HS2 Ltd should perhaps keep an eye on this process and, if successful, think about taking elements of whatever the US spec is and adapting them for use here when the time comes to procure the fleet of trains intended for use on both High Speed 2 and the existing network, which, given that it will operate on the northern half of the West Coast Main Line, will need to tilt if it is to retain the current available speeds and make the most of the new infrastructure in bringing down journey times to those destinations that won’t be served by the initial route.

“Amtrak and California join forces on high speed fleet procurement”
“Amtrak to partner California in high-speed train procurement plan”

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