CHSRA and Amtrak Abandon Joint Bid Plan
It was a nice idea, but in the end unworkable. That’s the conclusion that the California High Speed Rail Authority and Amtrak have reached in ending their plan to jointly bid for trainsets:
A joint bidding process that rail officials hoped would make it cheaper to buy new trains for the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor has been cancelled by the two agencies.
The cancellation comes because the specifications of the trains needed in each region were “just too different” for manufacturers to accommodate under a single contract, said Frank Vacca, chief program manager for the California rail agency….
Both Amtrak and California want streamlined, electric-powered trains for their high-speed passenger-rail corridors. But for manufacturers, the devil was in the differences.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority wants passenger trains capable of operating at 220 mph for its proposed statewide rail system between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Amtrak is looking for trains with peak speeds of about 160 mph to operate in its Northeast Corridor, which runs between Boston and Washington, D.C.
While California anticipates building hundreds of miles of new dedicated rail with a combination of long straightaways and wide-arced curves to accommodate higher speeds, Vacca said Amtrak is confined to a corridor largely designed and built in the late 19th century, “and to meet their trip times and optimize the corridor, they required a tilting train.”
That all makes sense to me. A joint procurement process works only if the two systems’ needs are truly similar. But the NEC and the California HSR corridor aren’t similar enough when it comes to speed or track design. So the agencies are right to go their separate ways.
This is another consequence of Republican opposition to high speed rail. If Congress backed a national HSR plan, with national track and platform standards, then it would be a lot easier to pursue joint bids like this. But we don’t have such plans, and so each project has to struggle forward on its own in the face of ideological opposition from Congressional Republicans.
Maybe once sanity returns to Congress, a national standard can be developed. For now, California is free to choose what works best for its own needs.