Amtrak Touts Train Despite Delay
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Amtrak is continuing with a roughly $7 million advertising campaign for its new ``Acela″ service, even though equipment problems have delayed the start of high-speed train service in the Northeast until the spring.
The ads were supposed to generate interest before the train’s scheduled introduction late this year. Amtrak officials said the campaign would stay on course, despite Acela’s delay, because the ads not only will promote the new train but also service upgrades on other trains in the region.
``It’s really not about the high-speed train; it’s about the rebranding of the service,″ said Amtrak spokesman Rick Remington. ``It’s getting the name out there.″
Some of the ads, all of which were bought before Amtrak announced the delay last week, feature the new train _ a silver-and-turqoise bullet train that will eventually run at 160 mph.
The new signs are part of a $20 million overall ad campaign by Amtrak this year. They are appearing on buses, billboards and other outdoor sites in Boston, New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Providence, R.I., and New Haven, Conn.
Earlier this year Amtrak rolled out the Acela name in move theater ads shown before films such as ``Star Wars″ and ``Notting Hill.″
The new train’s builder, Montreal-based Bombardier-Alstom, faces fines for not delivering the high-speed cars on time. But Amtrak said it has no plans to seek reimbursement for the ad campaign. The ads ``are getting people’s attention and that’s the whole purpose,″ Remington said.
Amtrak and Bombardier-Alstom announced last week that premature wear on the new train’s wheels would delay its rollout until next spring at the earliest. The discovery was made while testing one of 20 new eight-car train sets at a site in Pueblo, Colo.
Since then, a set of wheels has been modified and shipped to Philadelphia, where it has been placed on a second test train. That train, which has already run at 90 mph, will begin runs with the new wheels next week. Eventually it will speed up to 165 mph, 5 mph over its service speed but the train’s actual design speed.
``Acela Express″ will be the name on the new trains, which will run in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor. Amtrak also plans to rename services from Newport News, Va., to Buffalo, N.Y., as either ``Acela Regional″ or ``Acela Commuter.″
The regional and commuter lines will offer 333 completely refurbished passenger cars and 52 redesigned cafe cars. The regional service will start in January with two daily roundtrips between Boston, New York and Washington.
On each segment, the travel time will be less than four hours _ not the 2 1/2 to 3 hours that will be provided by the new train.
Amtrak also is investing in new stations and a new reservation system, and has retrained 10,000 employees to give passengers better service.
``Just the train itself isn’t going to cut it,″ Remington said. ``Most likely, people would ride it once and then not come back. You’ve got to upgrade all aspects of your service.″