Amtrak to Test New Top Speed of 165 m.p.h

Monday, September 24, 2012 - 02:40 PM

 Rendering of an Amtrak NextGen high-speed rail train (not on the tracks yet).

Amtrak is testing a new top speed this week. The national rail network will be running empty test trains at 165 m.p.h at several locations along the Northeast corridor. The current top speed is 150 m.p.h. on stretches between New York and Boston, and 130 m.p.h south of New York. Those are the fastest rail speeds in the U.S.

These tests are part of a long slow process to transform the Northeast Corridor into true high-speed rail  service. See the vision for that here.

The tests, beginning tonight and stretching through the week, are designed to pave the way for passenger service of 160 m.p.h. on about 100 miles of route between Boston and Washington D.C.. Each stretch being tested is between 20 and 30 miles long. Federal regulations require tests of 5 m.p.h. above maximum operating speeds.

European and Asian high-speed trains routinely top 200 m.p.h.

Existing Acela equipment will be used for the tests. Though Acela service tops out at 150 m.p.h. for about 34 miles in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, average operating speeds are lower: 81.8 m.p.h. between NY and Washington, D.C. and 75.4 m.p.h between NY and Boston.

Acela trains top 125 m.p.h for 45 percent of the Boston to D.C. trip, but reach what Amtrak calls the "very high speed" of 150 m.p.h for just 5 percent of the NY-DC trip. Track congestion, route curvature, station stops, and infrastructure factors inhibit higher speeds on other portions. Federal regulations, like the one requiring this week's test of a new top speed, also limit speed.

Here's the full announcement from Amtrak with test locations:


Four test areas cover more than 100 miles of the Northeast Corridor

WASHINGTON- Beginning tonight and continuing into next week, Amtrak plans to operate high-speed test trains at 165 mph in four areas covering more than 100 miles of the Northeast Corridor.  The tests in Maryland / Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are locations that may at some future time experience regular 160 mph service.

The tests will utilize high-speed Acela Express equipment and will measure the interaction between the train and the track, rider quality and other safety factors. The test runs must be performed at 5 mph above the expected maximum operating speed of 160 mph.

The test areas between approximately Perryville, Md. - Wilmington, Del. (21.3 miles) and Trenton - New Brunswick, N.J. (22.9 miles) currently have a maximum speed limit of 135 mph.  The test areas between approximately Westerly - Cranston, R.I. (29.2 miles) and South Attleboro - Readville, Mass. (27.8 miles) currently have a maximum speed limit of 150 mph.  The same areas were used for similar high-speed tests before the introduction of Acela service.

The initial test run is in New Jersey where Amtrak is presently advancing design, engineering and other pre-construction activities for a $450 million project funded by the federal high-speed rail program.  The project includes upgrading track, electrical power, signal systems and overhead catenary wires to improve reliability for Amtrak and commuter rail service, and is necessary to permit regular train operations at the faster speeds.  Some construction activity is anticipated in 2013, but the project will ramp up dramatically thereafter to be completed in 2017.

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Comments [4]

Iain M Watson from Somewhere between Kingston and Rhode Island

I am currently on an ACELA train to Boston and we just hit 160 mph on my GPS speedometer app !!

Apr. 28 2014 08:53 PM
Bill DiBrito

Been there, done that, got the speed report, 13 yrs ago.

Dec. 22 2013 06:37 PM

A There is more than magic speed numbers needed; the fabric of mobility to and from depots and station platforms is sadly decayed, and disastrously vulnerable in likely rationing scenario.

The point here, we need more passenger trains running steady 80mph schedules, with some segments above 125, but volume of passengers should be a greater goal than MPH... California offers a classic display of the problem: A showcase hsr project just dozens of miles from the Tejon pass bottlenrck, so severe passenger trains casnnot be scheduled... the bus must suffice. It is beyond comprehension; does building passenger train riding constituency even faintly nudge at the thinking process of the California High Speed Rail Commission. ??

High Speed rail is going to grab headlines and garner political grandstanding, but energy inputs versus energy savings is the most important calculus in transport. As Middle East collision(s) impact world flows of conventional oil, railway mode must prepare for Federal Executive Emergency Orders for motor fuel rationing. Freight and passenger volumes on the nation's railways are going to double as aviation and trucking is dealt a one-two punch of upward price and tightened availability of diesel/jet fuel this decade. Natural partnerships of regional airlines and rail routes are beckoning, Southwest Airlines is a match-up tor the California HSR project for instance.

Pollyannish reports to the contrary, Islamic nationalism and conflict/strategic shifts will combine to reduce oil flows below any possible ability to make up gaps in normal/projected consumption numbers. Lionel Badel, Robert Hirsch, Jan Lundberg, J. Woolsey, Boone Pickens, Richard Heinberg, and Robert Klare offer credentialed information supporting US need to enhance freight/passenger rail capacity and reach with all due haste.

Spurts of MAS increase on miniscule US rail mileage districts are downright pitiful, in context of real world events bearing down at our complacent bubble of happy motoring... There is now so much evidence pointing to motor fuel energy emergency, it is simply stunning to see an entire industry, the once proud and exemplary profession of US railroading content with occasional spurts of velocity, a blip on a map showing continental shrinkage of rail mileage and service connections.

We have a presidential candidate running on the idea of stripping away assets- "Harvesting Profits" by bleeding jobs and plant. Stripping rail mileage is still happening at this late date. Romney's playbook is old but as new as Bain: see Senator Frank J. Cannon's 'Under The Prophet IN Utah" the primer for budding MBA's focused on milking, not mending, American Industry-

Be that as it may, each day without disaster offers ability to rethink transport policy! Railway executives and boards with initiative are able to methodically investigate and even contact the several experts on motor fuel supply noted above. Strategic Planning sites like The Institute For Strategic And International Studies and The Oil Study Group in Sweden have very reliable data showing need to expand railway capacity & reach with all due haste.

Transportationnation has a broad constituency; the rail segment being near inconsequential compared even to the bicycle interests... We submit a thoughtful look at a comment from a well-known english source about the time of the first Gulf War:

"The West Lives In A Dream; The Good Life, And We Think It Can Go On Forever"

Keep 'Em Rolling

Sep. 29 2012 11:16 PM
Gregory Grice

Here's the test train hitting 170MPH:

Sep. 25 2012 07:47 AM

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