TRAIN OPERATIONS: The Acela Express 2021 Program Faces Oversight Weaknesses and Schedule Risks
In August 2016, Amtrak (the company) received a federal loan to purchase 28 new high-speed trainsets for $1.6 billion and undertake 10 infrastructure improvements needed to operate and maintain these trains for $850 million. Collectively, these projects—called the Acela Express 2021 program—represent the company's largest single investment in its 46 years of service. The new equipment will replace the 20 Acela trainsets currently providing high-speed service on the Northeast Corridor, allowing the company to increase service frequency between Washington, D.C., and Boston, Massachusetts.
The Acela Express 2021 program is in the design stage. The trainset contractor, Alstom, is scheduled to deliver the first prototype in December 2019, and the new trainsets are scheduled to enter revenue service starting in January 2021. In addition, all 10 of the related infrastructure projects are in the design phase, and construction is scheduled from 2018 to 2021. Four of these projects must be completed before the new trains enter revenue service. They are aimed at improving the company’s service and inspection facilities (in Washington, D.C.; New York City; and Boston) and various trackside safety upgrades.