First High-Speed Trains in U.S. Move Forward in Testing

A facility in Hornell, N.Y., is producing what will be the first high-speed trains to hit the tracks in the U.S. This week, a federal agency approved Amtrak's permit to test those trains in Colorado.

by The Evening Tribune / January 23, 2020
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(TNS) — All aboard!

Next stop, Colorado.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has signed off on Amtrak's permit application for a one-time movement of its just-constructed next generation high-speed train from the Hornell, N.Y., Alstom production facility to its test track in Colorado.

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer applauded the decision in a statement Wednesday.

"The FRA approving Amtrak's request to move its Next Generation High-Speed Train to its Colorado test track is a critical step in getting these state-of-the-art trains on the tracks and in improving reliability, service, safety and capacity for all those who travel the critical Northeast Corridor," said Senator Schumer. "I appreciate the FRA quickly heeding my request and fast-tracking this crucial permit to get the Next Generation High-Speed train inspected and have its safety ensured."

While the Hornell facility has an extensive test track that was upgraded in 2018, the visit to Colorado is needed to test the new train at high speeds on the longer track out west.

The Hornell workforce is producing the first-ever high-speed trains in the United States.

"To have the Acela line being produced here is a huge feather in the city's cap," Hornell Mayor John Buckley said. "I don't think people realize the significance of the Acela line being built here in Hornell, N.Y. Nowhere in the continental United States will you find high speed rail being produced other than the City of Hornell. Nowhere else in the country are they building this other than right here in our backyard. That's really amazing when you think about it."

Schumer has strongly supported opportunities for growth at Alstom's Hornell facility, which has, for more than 150 years, been manufacturing and servicing high-quality trains in Hornell. He visited Alstom in Hornell on several occasions, most recently in September 2015, to announce and celebrate with local leaders the Amtrak Board of Directors' entrance into negotiations with Alstom to provide a replacement for Amtrak's current Acela trains.

In June 2015, Schumer visited Alstom in Hornell to urge the Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to green light Amtrak's efforts to buy brand new Next Generation High-Speed trains. The U.S. DOT, through both waivers and approved financing — through its Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) program — plays a critical role in allowing Amtrak to undertake this important effort. Through the RRIF program, the U.S. DOT authorizes and provides direct loans and loan guarantees to finance the development of railroad infrastructure, including rolling stock and equipment. Amtrak, with Schumer's full support, secured such a loan in order to help pay for the Next Generation High-Speed trains.

Schumer said the need for better trains along the Northeast Corridor (NEC) is clearer now more than ever, as Acela service has set revenue and ridership records over the past several years. More than 52.5 million passengers have traveled on the fleet of 20 Acela trainsets in the 18 years since revenue service began on Dec. 11, 2000. During FY 2018, customers took more than 3.4 million Acela trips and generated nearly $606 million in ticket revenue.

As passenger ridership is projected to continue increasing in the coming years and with Amtrak offering affordable fares, there is a significant need to increase the capacity size for Amtrak trains as soon as possible. Procuring new trains made by American manufacturers and suppliers would prove to be a win-win, as it would meet Amtrak's increased passenger load while providing jobs for American workers. Therefore, as a result of ridership and ticket revenue on the NEC line increasing over the last decade, Amtrak turned to companies like Alstom's Hornell facility to purchase trains that meet the high demand and quality conditions.

Alstom currently employs over 1,250 people in Upstate N.Y. Over the years, Alstom's committed workforce has delivered steam, diesel-electric, electric and high-speed rail technology, including more than 7,000 transit vehicles, to U.S. customers. Schumer said the company is widely recognized for its deep understanding of U.S. regulations and standards, delivering trains with the highest quality and reliability in the market.

©2020 The Evening Tribune, Hornell, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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