Amtrak fleet plan would replace Amfleet I cars, prepare for replacement of Superliners

$3.5 billion plan considers possibilities of dual-model, self-propelled multiple-unit equipment
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An order for new Siemens Charger locomotives, as shown in this rendering, is one part of Amtrak's five-year equipment plan that has already begun.
This illustration from Amtrak's five-year equipment plan shows the various types of equipment that could replace aging Amfleet I cars.

WASHINGTON — While it is less than a definitive document, Amtrak has outlined its five-year plan for its equipment fleet, indicating the locomotives and cars it aims to replace or refurbish, as well as indications of how it would use that fleet.

Amtrak’s “Five Year Equipment Asset Line Plan,” issued last week, is presented as “not simply an equipment replacement program — it is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance Amtrak’s operations and product in ways that will maximize ridership, revenue, and customer satisfaction while increasing Amtrak’s efficiency in terms of both controlling costs and utilizing equipment resources.” It notes that Amtrak’s current railcar fleet averages nearly 33 years of age, while locomotives average nearly 21 years of age.

The plan indicates the types of equipment the passenger railroad hopes to acquire or rebuild, but does not attempt to define the quantities of that equipment, noting specific needs will “become clear throughout the next 12 to 24 months” based on several key factors:

— Possible changes to Amtrak’s long-distance route or service structure. The Trump administration’s 2020 budget proposal would eliminate long-distance service, a corridor-focused model embraced by Amtrak’s current management [See “News Analysis: Trump plan to eliminate long-distance trains mirrored by Amtrak budget request,” Trains News Wire, March 25, 2019].

— Potential changes that could come from outsourced food service, a concept Amtrak began exploring with a request for information last fall [See “Analysis: Amtrak trends continue in exploration of outside food service providers,” Trains News Wire, Sept. 13, 2018]

— Possible involvement of state partners in Amtrak orders, and their equipment needs and preferences.

— Seating capacity of equipment offered by manufacturers.

The plan addresses seven areas of equipment need. Three are already being addressed: the order for 130 Viewliner II long-distance cars, of which 97 were active as of October 2018; the order for 28 Avelia Liberty high speed trainsets for the Northeast Corridor, intended to be in service by 2022, and the order for diesel locomotives to replace the current P-40 and P-42 fleet. Amtrak has ordered 75 Siemens Charger locomotives [see “Siemens to supply 75 new Tier 4 locomotives to Amtrak,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 21, 2018]; that order could eventually grow to as many as 175 units.

The plan outlines four other facets of needs for the Amtrak fleet:

— Replacement of Amfleet I cars, either with railcars, self-propelled multiple-unit equipment, or other trainsets. These could be diesel, electric or dual-mode.

— Acquisition of dual-power equipment — either locomotives or trainsets — to eliminate current engine changes between diesel and electric power at locations in the Northeast.

— Development of a plan for multilevel cars to replace the current Superliners (and, potentially, California and Surfliner cars), with those cars entering service between 2026 and 2031.

— Refreshing of Amfleet II, Superliner, Horizon and Viewliner I equipment, as well as possible reconfiguration of Viewliner I sleeping cars and Viewliner II dining cars.

Amtrak estimates funding to execute the plan could approach $3.5 billion through 2024, with $1.4 of that for the replacement of the Amfleet equipment. An additional $1 billion to $1.5 billion could be needed after 2024 to complete the Amfleet replacement.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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