Amtrak unveils comfier seats, better lighting in coaches

By Ashley Clarke and Michael Brice-Saddler, Correspondents

WASHINGTON — Amtrak riders in the Northeast and Midwest can expect to see more comfortable rides in the coming months as the passenger rail service continues interior overhauls of more than 450 of its coaches.

Amtrak’s efforts to refresh the interior of its Amfleet I trains includes the installation of 52,000 newly designed seat cushions, new carpet, LED lights and enhancements to the restrooms.

“Our customers for many years have told us they want us to modernize our cars, and so for me the best part is just to be able to do that — to bring a modernized look and feel and atmosphere to these cars for our customers and give them what they’ve been asking for,” said Alison Simon, director of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Business Development Group.

The new seats are light gray with accents of dark blue; the carpeting is royal blue.

Duncan Copland, senior manager of industrial design at Amtrak, said that comfort was the most important factor in the new seat cushion designs. The seats, which have a quarter-inch of foam laminated on the inside, have better lumbar and side support.

Amtrak is keeping the old light fixtures above the seats, but new brightness-adjustable LED lights will be installed. The chairs will also be outfitted with a new lightly colored synthetic leather.

“The nice thing about synthetic leathers is, they breathe well; they wear well, and visually [it’s] easy to see whether they are clean,” Copland said, adding that the material will be more expensive than the old fabric but will last about twice as long.

Like the new seat cushions, the new nylon carpets will be easier to clean, Copland said.

The Amfleet cars, with their distinctive stainless steel tubular design, entered service in 1975. They are used on routes in the Northeast Corridor, South and Midwest.

The entire refurbishing project, which was announced in September, will cost about $16 million in government money, Simon said. The interior upgrades began last summer, and will continue in stages until the fleet is completely upgraded by next summer.

Train schedules will not be affected by the upgrades, Simon added.

She said that Amtrak partnered with Kruse Carpet Recycling to create a comprehensive recycling program for this project. She added that by the end of the overhaul, 133 tons of recyclable materials will be diverted from landfills.

Copland added that the synthetic leather used for the new seat cushions is manufactured in the United States.

While Amtrak is focusing on its Amfleet cars for now, Simon said she hopes similar upgrades can be expanded to other fleets in the future.

She hopes new and returning customers will appreciate the cosmetic upgrades as they begin traveling for the holidays.

“We’re excited to do this right before Thanksgiving — it’s our busiest time of the year,” Simon said. “We’re hoping that our customers get to experience at least some component as they travel through the corridor during Thanksgiving.”

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