One thing most countries with strong, resilient economies have in common is a modern, well-maintained rail network.
The decline of a rail network both reflects, and contributes to, the decline of a nation.
So it was good news when America’s long-underfunded Amtrak passenger network announced a major renovation, in the form its new Airo trains: the first completely new rolling stock announced in over two decades.
Built for the future, visuals of Amtrak’s newest trains (finally) offer a modern customer experience in all ways except speed. They are still slow by European, Japanese and Chinese standards.
But that’s a function of our antique railbeds, decrepit bridges, etc. which—in turn—is largely the result of conservative politicians’ fear of government spending. A nation can’t become great simply by reducing its investments in its future.
Routes include the Amtrak Northeast Regional, Empire Service, Virginia Services, Keystone Service, Downeaster, Cascades, Maple Leaf, New Haven/Springfield Service, Palmetto, Carolinian, Pennsylvanian, Vermonter, Ethan Allen Express and Adirondack.
“As we invest in the future, Amtrak is leading the way with a new era of rail,” said Amtrak President Roger Harris.
“Our new trains will transform the Amtrak experience with significant environmental benefits, a progressive design and world-class amenities,” he added.
The new trains will elevate the journey with a focus on comfort and efficiency.
Amtrak Airo promises to provide additional advantages to traveling by rail, including:
- Elevated Experience: With its modern, spacious interior and panoramic windows, customers have an improved view of the best sights in the country while connecting to the passing landscape.
- A Greener Impact: The new trains are more fuel efficient and produce 90% less particulate emissions in diesel operations.
Reduced Travel Times: The new trains will operate at speeds up to 125 mph and offer near seamless transition between power sources where time-consuming locomotive changes were previously required.
- Redesigned Café Car: More contemporary food service provides self-service options.
- Wayfinding: Signage creates a cleaner, more evident and accessible way to identify and differentiate cabins – both on the exterior and interior through a color-coded system.
- Spacious Seating:Each spacious seat prioritizes ergonomics, offers enhanced comfort with plenty of legroom, bigger and sturdier tray tables, moveable headrests and a dedicated cup and seatback tablet-holder.
- Business Class: Choice of double and single seats offer customers greater flexibility.
- Amenities: Features enhanced lighting, improved technology with digital customer information systems and touchless restroom controls, dedicated individual outlets, USB ports and onboard Wi-Fi.
“Americans deserve modern, safe, reliable passenger rail service, and introducing brand new rail cars is a major step towards improving the daily experience of commuters and travelers who depend on Amtrak,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose.
“This year, FRA provided nearly $4.3 billion in annual funding to support these improvements, and with President Biden’s historic investments in Amtrak, we’re poised to make intercity passenger rail an even more efficient, convenient and accessible mode of travel for Americans,” he continued.
In response to strong customer demand, the new trains are part of a larger transformation that will revolutionize the Amtrak experience, including the new Acela trains.
Amtrak’s move to the future also includes major infrastructure projects, service expansion, station upgrades, modernization efforts and improved track capacity along the Northeast Corridor.
A share of Amtrak’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding will support the procurement of Amtrak Airo, which will be manufactured by Siemens in California.
All images courtesy of Amtrak.