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Amtrak Buying Fast, New Electric Trains for $466 Million

"Rendering of Amtrak Cities Sprinter ACS-64 electric locomotive, to be produced by Siemens."

Finally! I love seeing and writing on great rail news in China and Europe, but it always makes me think of how far behind the U.S. is. Taking a step closer to these transportation leaders, Amtrak recently announced it is going to spend nearly half a billion dollars on 70 new electric locomotives “to provide improved performance and reliability for its Northeast intercity passenger rail services.”

The six-year contract was awarded to manufacturing giant Siemens, as you can see in the picture above. And yes,.. Siemens is a German company, but it is anticipated that this contract will create 250 US jobs. Most of the jobs will be created in Sacramento, but some will also be created in Norwood, Ohio and Alpharetta, Georgia.

Siemens Trains to Improve Northeast Rail Corridor

The Northeast currently has the best rail network in the U.S., but these trains will help provide much-needed improvements.

“Amtrak is a critical transportation provider in the Northeast and modern locomotives are essential to meet the service reliability expectations of our passengers and for us to handle the growing ridership demand in the coming years,” said President and CEO Joseph Boardman.

One way the trains will increase efficiency and improve performance is with an new design that “allows for easier maintenance leading to faster turn around times and increased availability of locomotives for service.”

Clean, Green Trains, in More Ways than One

The trains will be fully-electric locomotives, replacing much dirtier diesel trains. As Jake Richardson of Care2 writes:

Diesel locomotives emit air pollution,”they continue to emit large amounts of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter (PM), both of which contribute to serious public health problems.” So replacing seventy of them with electrics should at least make a dent in reducing it. Additionally, with electrics, no pollution will be coming directly from them, so they will not be polluting on rail lines which are frequently located near people.

In addition, these trains may generate some clean energy of their own. They “will feature regenerative braking systems that can automatically return electricity to the power grid,” Beth Buczynski of Earth & Industry writes.

Trains to be Built Using Clean Energy

The clean, electric trains will apparently be built at facilities using clean energy as well.

“These locomotives will be built in America using renewable energy and provide cleaner, more efficient movement of people on the most heavily traveled rail route in the country,” Daryl Dulaney, president and CEO of Siemens Industry, Inc., said.

The Sacramento plant where most of the manufacturing will occur gets up to 80% of its electricity from solar energy.

Not the Fastest Trains in the World, but Not the Slowest

These “Siemens Sprinters” don’t get anywhere close to the 217 mph China’s fastest trains get, nor the 200 mph new Eurostar high-speed trains built by Siemens will get, but they aren’t slow. Amtrak reports:

Boardman explained the first Amtrak Cities Sprinter ACS-64 electric locomotive is to be delivered in February 2013 and will operate at speeds up to 125 mph (201 kph) on the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C. to Boston and up to 110 mph (177 kph) on the Keystone Corridor from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pa. They will replace locomotives in service between 20 and 30 years with average mileage of 3.5 million miles traveled.

Want to see a video of these trains? Here’s one of the European version via YouTube:

The first of these trains are intended to hit the tracks in 2013 and the last in 2019.

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Photo Credit: Amtrak

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