Amtrak looks to upgrade overnight trains

Amtrak has started the process of upgrading trains on its popular overnight routes, seeking informal proposals from as many as 10 manufacturers or rail car replacements.

The upgrades would include the Auto Train, California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Crescent, Empire Builder and Southwest Chief.

By seeking proposals, it marks Amtrak’s first step to completely re-equip its long-distance network, which includes 14 overnight routes from coast to coast.

Click to view larger. (Courtesy Amtrak)

“Purchasing new long distance train cars will allow Amtrak to upgrade and modernize the iconic and vital overnight services that link our nation’s major regions. We are looking for new trains that improve safety, reliability, accessibility and efficiency while offering the features our customers believe are most important to modernizing overnight train travel for the 21st century,” said Amtrak board chair Tony Coscia.

In addition to its request for information from manufacturers, Amtrak is also researching design elements and customer amenities.

This first step is not a formal request for proposals. That will come later this year.

Amtrak would fund any upgrades to its overnight trains with funds from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, enacted by Congress in 2021.

Amtrak’s existing fleet of overnight rail cars has been delivered over the course of 40 years. The first of more than 800 cars on the networks entered service in 1979. Amtrak has already ordered 125 new diesel-electric locomotives, most for long distance routes.

Last year, Amtrak committed to upgrading trains on its shorter routes, including the Northeast Corridor, with new equipment set to begin service starting in 2026 through its Amtrak Airo program.

Its new, faster Acela trains are set to go into service in fall 2023, part of its $2.4 billion in upgrades on the Northeast Corridor, which also includes modernizing its passenger concourse at D.C.’s Union Station.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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