Acela Express: Planning for Modern High-Speed Rail

December 31, 2015

From Amtrak: A History of America’s Railroad, a project of Amtrak

December 29, 2015

Regularly scheduled Acela Express service began on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) between Washington, New York and Boston on December 11, 2000. Through February, Amtrak will mark the anniversary with special “Acelabrations” for customers and employees. Surprises on the trains, in stations and elsewhere are planned as Amtrak pauses to celebrate this milestone. In a series of blog posts, we’ll take a look back at the journey to Acela Express and explore its future.Website Insert Passenger Trains Very Well copy

For many involved with the Acela project, the launch of revenue service in December 2000 was the culmination of years of planning and countless hours of work, as well as the fulfillment of a decades-long dream to bring modern higher speed rail to North America.

Following the passage of the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965, which authorized the U.S. Secretary of Commerce1 “to undertake research and development in high-speed ground transportation,” the federal government worked with the private railroads to pursue high-speed rail demonstration projects. They were to be “designed to measure and evaluate such factors as the public response to new equipment, higher speeds, variations in fares, improved comfort and convenience, and more frequent service.”

A notable achievement was the Metroliner program developed in the late 1960s with the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR).2 New high-speed, self-propelled electric cars built by the Budd Company, in partnership with Westinghouse and General Electric, were designed for use on the PRR’s busy corridor between New York and Washington.3 Amtrak took over the service in 1971, increasing frequencies to keep up with demand. Although this demonstration program was generally deemed successful, a young Amtrak had to make careful decisions about how to best use its limited resources.

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