WASHINGTON -- Amtrak delayed until next spring the debut of its
Acela Express high-speed train because its wheels have exhibited
"excessive" wear during tests.
Amtrak and the train's manufacturers, Bombardier and Alstom,
have been putting the Acela Express train through a series of
high-speed tests in Pueblo, Colo.
Amtrak said the tests show that while the train has
"demonstrated its ability to achieve [a] top speed" of 165 mph, its
wheels degrade "too quickly" under the stress of negotiating
During a telephone press conference here, Bombardier's
president, Jacques Lapare, said "refinements" will be made to ease
the "rigidity" of the Acela's wheel structure to reduce the
pressure exerted by the wheel against the track, allowing more give
as the train handles curves.
Lapare said the wheel problem is more of a maintenance concern
than a safety hazard. He also said that he anticipates that Alstom,
the French company that designed the wheels, will have a solution
in place within the next 60 days.
Amtrak planned to put the one Acela Express train into revenue
service on the Northeast Corridor by December. Amtrak president
George Warrington said that as adjustments are being made to the
Acela Express, Amtrak will move forward with its plan to electrify
tracks and fortify bridges for the train's debut.
At the same time, Amtrak will rebrand the Metroliner and
Northeast Direct trains in the Northeast Corridor as Acela service.
"The cars have been rebuilt and overhauled," Warrington said. "As
those trains come off our production line, we will [put] them into
service. That will begin in January."
Warrington also played down any possible negative impact the
lost revenue caused by the Acela Express delay will have on the
rail line's immediate financial objectives.
Warrington said the delay will cause a "one-time, short-term ...
slippage" in Amtrak's business plan, but the lost will be made up
by other "commercial revenue streams."
Warrington declined to be more specific since several of the
commercial ventures are still being negotiated.
In the meantime, tests will continue on the Acela Express,
Warrington said. Amtrak said one Acela train set is being tested
outside Philadelphia. Another train will be tested in Rhode Island,
and more tests on another train set will continue in Pueblo,