CHSRA and Amtrak to Collaborate on Train Orders
The California High Speed Rail Authority and Amtrak today announced that they will work together to order trains for their high speed rail systems:
Amtrak, the U.S. long-distance passenger railroad, will ask companies starting today for information on building as many as 60 trains, which will add units on the Northeast Corridor, replace Acela trains and provide equipment for California, Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman said.
New trains might cost $35 million to $55 million each, Boardman said in Washington, declining to estimate the value of a contract. Amtrak and California, which plans to begin fast- train rail operations in 2022, will seek bids from companies by September, Boardman said.
“If everyone’s out issuing their own orders, everyone’s subject to what the industry can provide,” said Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. “We can drive the market in a way we can’t if we purchase separately.”
A joint purchase order could help lower the cost for both Amtrak and the CHSRA, and it could also help provide more operational and regulatory clarity across the country, especially in efforts to fix FRA rules regarding weight and crashworthiness so that off-the-shelf trainsets can be purchased. It would also make it easier to convince manufacturers to build the trains in the US if there’s a big order for them from both Amtrak and California.
On the other hand, it may be too early to tell if Amtrak and California are going to have the same operational needs. A trainset that makes sense for the Northeastern Corridor, where Amtrak operates the Acela high speed trains, may not make sense for California HSR, and vice-versa. California should retain some flexibility in which trainsets it decides to adopt and there may be good reasons not be tied to whatever Amtrak chooses.
Still, this joint approach definitely seems worth exploring. The potential benefits are significant and presumably there would be a national HSR standard in terms of operations and regulations, making it easier to build routes across the country and in turn to help manufacturers more easily know what to build for the American market.