Amtrak to introduce daily Los Angeles service in September


LAS VEGAS -- Amtrak announced it will initiate service between this city and Los Angeles in September.

Initial plans call for one daily roundtrip with one stop in Montclair, Calif., east of Los Angeles.

Amtrak is looking to add two more daily roundtrips as passenger demand increases, according to company officials, who estimate that upwards of 62,000 people will use the service in the first year.

The 340-mile corridor was part of a Los Angeles-Chicago route previously served by Amtrak's Desert Wind, whose route was discontinued in May 1997.

The eastbound train will depart from Los Angeles' Union Station at 9 a.m. and will arrive in Las Vegas at 2:30 p.m. The westbound train will leave Las Vegas at 4 p.m. and arrive in Los Angeles at 9:30 p.m.

In the next few months, according to Amtrak officials, the company will build a train platform with a canopy near the Las Vegas Strip.

The service, which has not yet been named, will utilize custom-designed European-style Talgo trains that can accommodate up to 300 passengers each.

Each car of the 14-car train is 44 feet long -- about half the size of a standard Amtrak car -- with seating for up to 36 people.

The passenger cars will have a center aisle with two seats on either side plus table seating for families or groups.

Each of the six standard coach cars can accommodate 36 passengers, and two wheelchair-accessible standard cars can fit 19 riders.

The trains also will have coach cars that feature a wider center aisle with two seats on one side and one seat on the other side.

One special coach car can accommodate 26 passengers, while one wheelchair-accessible special coach car can fit 18 passengers.

Both types of cars feature storage areas for carry-on luggage; overhead programming on 17-inch video monitors; four-channel audio systems; AC power outlets for laptop computers and personal electronic equipment; water fountains; temperature and lighting controls, and rest rooms.

Although the trains are designed to travel up to 125 mph, maximum track speed will be 79 mph.

The trains' exteriors will be painted silver and blue -- the state colors of Nevada -- and the cars' interiors will sport an indigo, violet and red color scheme to reflect the energy of Las Vegas, according to Amtrak officials.

The trains will include bistro and dining cars, allowing passengers a choice of formal and casual dining during the five-and-a-half-hour trip.

The bistro car, which will offer counter and booth seating for 14 people, will feature a full-service bar that serves alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages as well as a casual dining menu with sandwiches, salads and soups.

The car's custom-designed ceiling will feature a nighttime scene of the Nevada desert with evening stars made from fiber-optic lighting.

For eastbound passengers who want brunch/lunch and westbound riders hungry for dinner, the dining car offers a more formal atmosphere and seating for up to 30 people.

Tables will be set with linens, fresh flowers, china and glassware, and the menu will offer regional gourmet dishes and a variety of wines.

The trains also are designed so passengers who use wheelchairs can travel from accessible passenger cars through the adjacent bistro and dining cars.

Amtrak plans to lease the trains, which were assembled in the Seattle area, through an agreement with Seattle-based Talgo, Inc., a subsidiary of Patentes Talgo SA of Madrid.

According to Amtrak, the company will spend more than $14 million in capital funds this year for infrastructure improvements and facility construction.

The money will be used to improve tracks and signal systems along the route as well as build the passenger platform in Las Vegas.

In addition, the Nevada Department of Transportation and Amtrak have applied for another $2 million from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program for operating the service.

Final approval is expected soon by the Federal Highway Administration, according to Amtrak.

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