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Amtrak Launches Sleek, Speedy Acela

January/February 2001 IBEW Journal

Amtrak launched its eagerly awaited Acela Express high-speed train service in the U.S. Northeast Corridor on December 11, 2000. The newest, fastest train on the continent is getting great reviews for its world-class style and speed.

A ceremony to mark the launching of the Acela Express was held November 16, 2000, at Union Station in Washington, D.C. IBEW Railroad Department Director Daniel Davis was among the dignitaries on hand to celebrate the trains arrival.

The bullet-shaped locomotive travels at speeds up to 150 mph with limited stops between Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. Acela generates 12,500 horsepower utilizing the electric propulsion system of the French TGV, manufactured by ALSTOM, according to Amtrak. It incorporates an advanced tilt technology system developed by Bombardier that improves ride quality as the train travels through curves at high speed.

Spaciousness and large passenger windows distinguish the all-new stainless steel Acela. At each seat there are headphone jacks and 120-volt electrical outlets that accommodate laptop computers. The train offers unrestricted use of cell phones, pagers and public RailFones. The railroad is hoping to create a nationwide demand for reliable, fast and luxurious trains as an alternative to driving or flying, reported The New York Times.

Acela is the forerunner of high-speed rail projects now under development in 10 other corridors around the country. Acela Express is just the start for high-speed rail development nationally, said Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, who chairs Amtraks Board of Directors. States in the Midwest, the Southeast and the West Coast are leading the way for new high-speed rail corridors, committing the resources to get work started. 

Proposed legislation pending before Congress would allow Amtrak to issue $10 billion in bonds to make high-speed rail improvements throughout the country. Amtrak President George Warrington called the High-Speed Rail Investment Act absolutely essential to Amtraks future. The funding would be used to upgrade rail lines for high-speed service, purchase locomotives and passenger cars, and close grade crossings. Amtrak is under a Congressional mandate to become financially self-sufficient by 2003.

Development of high-speed rail also translates into jobs for IBEW electricians in the Railroad Branch, who help keep the nations vitally important system of rail transportation operating, said IBEW Railroad Department Director Daniel Davis. (For more about the work of the railroad electricians, see Powering the Railroads, IBEW Journal, September 1999.)  For information on the Internet about Acela Express, visit Web site www.acela.com or www.amtrak.com.