Union Station, the headquarters of Amtrak in Washington

Amtrak has revealed an aggressive growth plan including the construction of electric locomotives, the extension of electronic ticketing to all trains and a groundwork plan for faster trains in New Jersey.

The US national carrier has announced key action plans, which include building the first units of a $466m order for 70 new electric locomotives scheduled to be in service in 2013. The new locomotives will replace the ageing fleet and can operate at speeds of up to 125mph between Washington and Boston, and up to 110mph on the Keystone Corridor (Philadelphia-Harrisburg) with an average mileage of 3.5 million miles travelled.

Amtrak president and CEO Joe Boardman said, "Amtrak is building the equipment, infrastructure and organisation needed to ensure our strong growth continues into the future. We are investing in projects critical for enhancing the passenger experience, essential for supporting our national network of services and vital for the future of America’s railroad."

The first deliveries under a $298m order for 130 new single-level long-distance cars include sleepers, diners, baggage cars and baggage / dormitory cars.

The rail operator is planning to roll out eTicketing on all trains, as well as further integrate and improve the Northeast Corridor (NEC) to develop a high-capacity, next-generation high-speed rail (NextGen HSR) system. Amtrak will also continue upgrading NEC tracks, bridges and other infrastructure, and pursue efforts to expand Acela Express capacity.

Other improvements planned in 2012 include advancing initial planning work for the Gateway Programme to provide additional capacity into Manhattan for intercity, commuter and NextGen HSR services. Amtrak is also planning to further improve station accessibility under the requirements of the Disabilities Act and continue the development of a next-generation reservation system.

In this coming year, Amtrak plans to spend $50m on construction work at ten stations, design of level-boarding platforms at 30 stations and interior design at 57 stations.

It will also undertake an in-depth evaluation of the top-performing long-distance routes to identify and implement changes possible to improve on-time performance. The five routes being analysed are Auto Train (Lorton, Virginia-Sanford, Florida), Empire Builder (Chicago-Seattle / Portland), Southwest Chief (Chicago-Los Angeles), New Orleans (Chicago-New Orleans) and Coast Starlight (Seattle-Los Angeles).

Joseph Boardman noted that the projects will support a strong focus on strengthening the Amtrak bottom line as well as improving its service on the NEC between Washington and Boston. An updated fleet strategy plan will be released in the second quarter of 2012 with the latest analysis on replacing and expanding its existing conventional and high-speed rail fleet.

Amtrak had more than 30.2 million passengers nationwide last year, a ridership record for the eighth year running.

Caption: Union Station, the headquarters of Amtrak in Washington, US. (Image courtesy of Wknight94.)