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New Acela trains approved for high-speed testing along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor

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Amtrak has reached a milestone in the long path to get its new Acela trains onto the tracks of the Northeast Corridor.

The rail company and manufacturer Alstom recently received Federal Railroad Administration approval to begin high-speed testing of the new trainsets, an Amtrak spokesperson told TPG on Friday.

That testing is already underway along the Northeast Corridor.

It’s a key step for the new Acela project, which has encountered years of delays.

Acela delays

The new Acela trains were originally slated to be on the tracks by 2021.

Among other hurdles, including the pandemic, a fall 2023 government watchdog’s report detailed specific challenges faced by Alstom in getting approval for computer models that would allow the company and Amtrak to proceed with live testing of the new trains.

Just before the holidays, though, a top Amtrak official was optimistic the problem would soon be rectified.

“We are closing in on finishing the modeling effort — the computer modeling as part of the safety regulation for that new trainset,” Laura Mason, Amtrak’s executive vice president for capital delivery, said in a late-November interview with TPG.

“I hope we’ll get into dynamic testing [in early 2024], and that will set us on the path to being able to put these trains into revenue service,” she said.

At the time, Mason predicted the first of the new Acela trains would be on the tracks by late 2024. Amtrak officials continue to predict customers will be able to ride the new Acela sometime this year.

new acela trains

Major improvement around the corner

Once fully operational, the new Acela will be able to carry more passengers in sleeker, nicer cars — replacing the aging, legacy Acela sets and providing a significantly upgraded passenger experience.

And the 28 new trainsets will be faster — up to 160 miles per hour, pending infrastructure upgrades along parts of the Northeast Corridor.

Combined with a host of other significant improvements planned for the corridor and approved for funding in recent months, it’s certainly a time of major change for rail travel along the East Coast.

Now, with a key hurdle behind Amtrak, there appears to be more hope on the horizon for getting these long-anticipated trains on the tracks.

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