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Sounds familiar: Roll out of new trains delayed

New Acela train

Next-gen Acela passing through Readville on a test run last September.

But this time, not on the Orange Line. The Washington Post reports Amtrak is delaying the introduction of new Acela trains by a year partly because it turns out they need some work due to the fact they're incompatible with the Northeast Corridor's tracks and overhead power lines. But, of course, Amtrak is also blaming Covid-19.

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Comments

These delay stories remind me that it took just 4 years, start to finish, to build the Massachusetts Turnpike from Stockbridge to Weston. The Boston extension took a little longer. I think China could build an entire 1000 mile high speed rail system in the time it’s taking them to put new trainsets on the Orange Line.

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Voting closed 33

Was bullied through with ridiculous amounts of government reach with minimal public process by William Callahan, you know the guy who decided to name a tunnel after his kid.

The amount of eminent domain used on it was ghastly.

Yes, you can build a lot in China real quickly. You also are a cog in a wheel.

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Voting closed 31

Off topic a bit but this is a good point on the Callahan Tunnel naming. It would be great if it was renamed after a more public Bostonian/commonwealth citizen, perhaps someone involved in the abolition or civil rights to make it a corollary to the Sumner. Callahan‘s son died in service in war, but so did many others from the commonwealth, so it could also be changed to memorial tunnel etc. to highlight all not just one man’s son. Nepotism like this should be corrected.

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Nepotism like this should be corrected.

Is it really so important to rename stuff that already has perfectly usable names? Finding things to be outraged about and rename is not an accomplishment.

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The tunnel is named after Lt. William Callahan, US Army who was killed in combat in Italy during World War II.
It's not named after his 'kid.' It's named in his honor and his memory. I guess the tunnel could've been named after another politician.

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Voting closed 29

Thousands of Massachusetts residents died in WWII. The state could have run some kind of process to pick one of them to honor. Instead, the head of the highway department chose to pick his own son. In other words, he helped himself to something valuable that wasn’t exactly his to take.

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Voting closed 36

I mean the name for the Ted Williams Tunnel was one of the craftiest things Governor Weld ever did. He just blurted it out at a press conference and everyone kind of said OK and moved on.

William Callahan however was the eminence grise of Massachusetts Politics for years. He ran roughshod over anyone who got in his way. When the Pike (and other roads like 128) was built, essentially what happened was an engineering crew showed up at your house or farm and said get out, see you in court if you don't like it. Real nice.

10,333 people from Massachusetts died in WW2 and somehow the tunnel gets named for the son of the head of the DPW who was in charge of the project? Weird.

To those of you in Central Square, JP, and the Fenway, if he had his way, there would be back ups at the Hampshire Street off ramp and the Roxbury Crossing merge right now.

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Voting closed 32

That was a time well before any mitigation for this type of construction took place. The Turnpike extension took about a decade to build, a lot of which was over the protests of Newton and Brighton residents who saw their homes bulldozed away. By 1970, we weren't building highways. And now for changes to the Turnpike, it takes years just to go through the permitting process.

And I would say this is generally a good thing.

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I never thought I would see "Weston" and ""Orange Line" used in one comment.

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How the hell does the manufacturer not get the proper specifications for track, etc. compatibility? That's just mind-boggling!

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I think that the point being that the track does not fit any single specification. Wires all over the place, etc. It's like a typical JP condo.

The sad part is that they modify the 21st century train to fit the 19th century infrastructure, and not vice versa.

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Voting closed 54

How the hell does the manufacturer not get the proper specifications for track, etc. compatibility?

The Northeast Corridor is one never-ending design hack at trying to fit higher-speed trains into old lineside infrastructure on a truly ancient right-of-way pinned in from geometric enhancement by the population megalopolis that grew up alongside it. Following the reference specs to the letter doesn't account for things like how well the pantograph is going to sustain tight wire contact and full unbroken power draw while needing to tilt to its side on some big ol' superelevated curve that's there because it was the only ugly engineering hack available to buy another 10 MPH of speed through the curvy CT shoreline.

France is buying very nearly the same Alstom Aveila make--at a far bigger unit order than Amtrak--for its world-renown TGV network. It's not like these things are a total unicorn design or project-mismanaged to hell; it's all derived from long-proven French technology, and a stratospheric improvement over the torturously overcustomized current Acela trains. But borrow all the French best-practices you want...the NEC is still an unwieldy beast by any world standard. TGV doesn't have anywhere near the level of ugly hacks around pinned-in curves that the NEC does, and that's exactly where they have to make adjustments. The power draw is a little less-than-crisp when the trains are in full tilt mode around a curve, and there's some excess wear being racked up on the suspensions over those same curves. It's not a new problem. The current Acela trainsets from Bombardier are maintenance-intensive and over-expensive to run because they falter under the same stressors running fast on curves. The new ones are way better out-of-box; they just need some additional fine-tuning so the wear profiles meet initial expectations.

That's it. It's also not a real big delay in any absolute terms. They were hoping to get a couple sets into service for Thanksgiving holiday crush as a showcase, and that debut schedule pretty much held firm in spite of a year's worth of pandemic. But it was only going to be a teaser of couple new sets sprinkled in at the start; you'd still be waiting until mid-'22 to get a new vs. old Acela set for your Acela ticket. This new timetable does away with the early teasers, but still expects the bulk of the new trains to deploy second-half of next year. Which probably means the fine-tuning they have left to do isn't very major in the end. That's not a schedule slip at all resembling the T's free-falling Red and Orange Line cars, where pooches have clearly already been screwed.

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Voting closed 45

Assuming it eventually even works, what will the new travel time be?

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For an extra 15 min delay! Acela is a joke, i drive to NYC vs taking the train, it ends up being the same duration after all of the delays on Acela.

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I'd rather sit outside New Haven in a nice wide Acela seat while being sipping on a cup of coffee while I surf the net on my phone vs sitting in I-95 traffic in a car.

Also environment
Also gas usage
Also green house gases

But please continue to tell me how your car is more superior...

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I'd rather hop off the train in NYC and wander around all weekend without having to worry about where my car is and whether it's going to get towed/ticketed/broken into.

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... when will it get here already!? I’m not betting on 2022.

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Trainy McTrainface?

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Voting closed 31

But first there will need to be a Face Reveal Party. The mask can come off.

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There is so little high speed track between Boston and New York that the Acela doesn't make enough difference to justify the cost differential. Bring work and/or reading, have a drink and relax. Penn Station boarding is a horror show, but other than that the trip is low stress.

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Voting closed 20

But the number of stops between Northeast Regional and Acela is what makes me always pick Acela.

Some of those NE regional trains stop far more times than Acela does. You pick the wrong one, and you're riding for 7 hours.

Also the seats are better, and I sit in the quiet car, which Regional doesn't have.

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Last time I took the train to NYC it was Oct 2019, Regional and I feel fairly confident I selected the quiet car.

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I've ridden that line maybe 15 times and it always had one.

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Yes, Regional has a Quiet Car. The four-across seating isn't much different (dimensions) than the four-across seating in Acela.
Admittedly, the Regional train sets (and the seats) rattle more.
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Regional does not take 7 hours.
Not because of number of stops, anyway. If it's 7 hours, it's construction. Typically, Regional takes 30+ minutes more (so, 4 hours instead of 3:30)
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Besides the four basic points (South Station, Back Bay, 128, NYPenn), Acela trips include at least 3 more stops - Providence, New Haven, Stamford. Regional can add five or six more - Kingston, Westerly, New London, umm... (other southeast CT shore point that I'm forgetting), Bridgeport, and... do they still do New Rochelle? They don't always make all of those.
So, sometimes you're making 6 stops, sometimes 9, sometimes 12.
Really, I think any of those extra stops, especially the smaller ones, adds only 3 minutes to the trip - 1 to slow down & stop, 1 for boarding/deboarding, 1 to get back up to speed. 6 stops mean maybe 18 minutes. The rest of the extra time is the speed limitations of the Regional trainsets.

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It leaves NYC at like 11pm. It stops EVERYWHERE.

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wrong.
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There's one overnight train - the sleeper that they just restored after years without it.
It leaves after 2 AM and takes about 5 hr 20 min.
I don't know about this overnight train and how it slots into morning rush traffic in the last stages of its rout. The old night mail was similarly slow, but part of that was designed to have Boston arrival be "daytime". Also, factoring in that the train would be going past work zones where everything else was shut down at night.
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Are you sure you've done this recently?
You seem to be clutching at straws to have an argument. Your prior comment was comparing Acela and Regional, which kind'a implies times of day where there's a choice. Picking the overnight where there's one entirely different train running and no choice is somewhat bogus.

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The real bottleneck isn't competing with commuter rail in Connecticut--it's the two single-track tunnels under the Hudson between Manhattan and New Jersey, which are shared with New Jersey Transit. Pre-COVID ridership was about 200,000 trips per day, mostly on commuter rail.

Flooding from Hurricane Sandy damaged those tunnels in 2012, and they need major repair work. That work will require shutting down one tunnel at a time--and cutting total capacity by more than half--for months if not years. Some of that will almost certainly come from Amtrak.

Hey, why not build another tunnel? They have a design, and have been working on the environmental impact statement since 2017. But hey, the funding was approved last month!

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The new tunnel was delayed because of Trump, of course. Republicans are prostitutes for Big Oil so American trains can’t be world class because of their obstruction.

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Not that the Northeast Gateway isn’t vital, but that is a future disaster. It is insane that the Acela can barrel through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, yet it has to putter along in the Nutmeg State. At least the appropriate authorities in New York and New Jersey have at least admitted there’s a problem at the Hudson and have arrived at a solution. Connecticut still refuses to even admit there’s a problem, opting instead to oppose any solution.

And to the less than knowledgeable commenter that came before me, do recall that the Hudson project was put on ice during the Obama Administration. Trump only raised hope during one of his “infrastructure weeks” only to dash it the next.

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Whatever its flaws, I still love riding Amtrak through the CT and RI sections that go along the shoreline. I've been taking that train for much of the last 45 years and still always make sure to sit on the east side of the train if I can.

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Oh, there's plenty of disfunction to go around, Waquoit, but don't deny Trump his share of it.
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I don't think it's so much "big oil". Just his usual pettiness and short-sightedness - both to the national interest and his own self-interest. A major failure of the tunnel before new tunnels are ready will have major effects to the economy of a region that's still a key chunk of his own zirconia-crusted & pyrite-plated financial empire and ripple effects to the national economy.
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Studies and designs and planning go back considerably farther than 2017. At least as far back as the 90s, though Sandy certainly gave it elevated urgency.
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Also, the Hudson tunnel isn't the only problem on the same few miles of track. The Portal Bridge - a swing bridge on that line just a couple of miles west of the tunnel portal - is in need of replacement as well.

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Voting closed 17

It ran more or less in a straight line across Connecticut to New York, bypassing both Hartford and Providence. It was shorter, and theoretically faster, than the "shore line" (the present Northeast Corridor) or the "inland route" (Boston - Worcester - Springfield - Hartford - New Haven). But it was abandoned in the middle of the last century; some of it is preserved as a bike trail.

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Voting closed 20