Amtrak is planning to start field testing its new long-distance passenger rail cars this winter.
Once in service on long-distance routes such as the New York-to-New Orleans Crescent and the New-York-to-Miami Silver Service routes, the cars will replace Amtrak’s heritage fleet of equipment. Some of the railroad’s heritage fleet dates to the 1940s.
The new cars are part of a $298.1 million order for 130 single-level long distance passenger rail cars. The complete order consists of 25 baggage/dormitory, 25 sleepers, 25 diners and 55 baggage cars.
“We see people wanting to travel this way,” the Star Gazette newspaper of Elmira, N.Y., quoted Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman as saying during a tour of the new cars. “We see the need for a balance in travel modes, that’s rail, by road and by air.”
The newest additions to Amtrak’s fleet are expected to begin entering service next summer. All 130 cars are to be delivered by the end of 2015, according to Amtrak.
CAF USA, a subsidiary of the Spanish company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, is building the cars at the its Elmira, N.Y., facility. According to Amtrak, the company hired more than 400 employees to perform manufacturing and final assembly work.
The new cars are similar to Viewliner cars currently in use on several eastern Amtrak routes. Those cars entered service for testing beginning in 1988 and were built to operate along the Northeast Corridor, which cannot accommodate the taller cars used on Amtrak’s western routes.
The new cars, which will be painted in Amtrak’s Phase III paint scheme, will be capable of operating at speeds up to 125 mph. When Amtrak announced the order in 2010, it said the first car was scheduled to roll off the assembly line in October 2012.
Amtrak set a new ridership record in FY 2013, which ended Sept. 30. During the year, Amtrak carried 31.6 million passengers, and its long-distance trains saw a 0.4 percent increase in the number of passengers carried.
This year’s record breaks the high mark set during FY 2012, when the railroad carried 31.2 million passengers. The latest record is the 10th ridership record the railroad has set in the last 11 years.