Passenger rail start-up claims slower trains on Northeast Corridor discriminate against those who can’t afford Acela service

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2020-06-01 Acela21 Power Car 2103, Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace, MD
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The new Acela21 Power Car 2103 on a bridge over the Susquehanna River near Havre de Grace, MD, wet of Newark. The bridge is one of many along the corridor in need of replacement.

AmeriStar Rail continues to push for all Acela trains on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor which runs through Newark and Wilmington on the way to Boston and Washington, DC.

Earlier this year, Stephen Gardner, CEO of Amtrak, turned down a request to meet with AmeriStar representatives to discuss the proposal.

AmeriStar wants to manage Northeast Corridor routes with all Acela trains, with the goal of getting private investment in upgrading the aging 475-mile-long corridor.

The Northeast Corridor service came close to breaking even on an operating basis before the Covid-19 pandemic. Once needed upgrades for tracks, tunnels, and century old-bridges are taken into account, subsidies are required.

Fedeal infrastructure legislation allocated $66 billion for upgrades at Amtrak, with money spread around the nation.

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Amtrak runs a combination of higher-fare Acela and low-frills regional trains along the corridor. Northeast Regional trains have an operating speed of about 125 miles an hour, compared to about 150 for Acela.

Wilmington-based AmeriStar is headed by Scott Spencer with advisors that include a former Amtrak president.

Spencer claims the current service options amount to discrimination against passengers who can’t pay the higher Acela fares. “Since most coach passengers cannot afford Acela business and first class ticket prices, their access to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service is restricted to fewer train services at slower speeds than Acela passengers,” Spencer wrote.

Spencer says the use of all-Acela equipment would result in more frequent and efficient service AmeriStar also has other ideas to spur efficiency and deal with bottlenecks along the corridor, including he New York metro area.

Amtrak is upgrading Northeast Regional service with new railcars and locomotives. It also added sleeping car service on some Washington-Boston trains.

New Acela trainsets are also arriving with upgraded interiors and other features. Northeast Reginal passenger cars, some of which are refurbished at Amtrak’s Bear site, are 40 to 50 years old.

Amtrak employs about 1,000 in Delaware. 

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