Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Amtrak Acela trains may expand to meet demand

Boston Globe article noting that Amtrak Acela trains may expand to meet demand. Some points from the article: Acela ridership rose 20 percent to 3.19 million passengers in the 2007 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Revenue from Acela fares was $403.5 million, or 27 percent of Amtrak's ticket sales. Trains are "running full and the demand is there". Each Acela train consists of two locomotives and six passenger cars. Amtrak would consider lengthening the Acela by adding a couple additional cars to the trains. The trains now run with an engine at each end as this speeds turnarounds when the Acela finishes its route and then reverses direction. Reconfiguring trains to add coaches would be "very difficult and very time consuming" Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Romero said.

Amtrak adjusts prices much like airlines do trying to match fares to supply and demand. Demand for the high-speed Acela service may spur Amtrak to levy a surcharge to help buy additional equipment. Amtrak also doesn't have any spare Acela passenger cars, so extending the trains would require buying more custom-built coaches Amtrak states. Acela trains are made by Bombarider and Alstom SA. Amtrak can operate its full Acela schedule of 32 weekday departures with as many as two of its 20 trains out of service. Higher fares alone wouldn't produce enough money to expand the Acela, for which Amtrak agreed to pay $800 million in 1996 for 20 trains and maintenance. Such a step would require more federal funding for Amtrak.

Acela trains can make the trip between New York and Washington DC in just under 2 and half hours. Amtrak started Acela service in December 200.


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