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Amtrak Reports Progress in Acela

October 24, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Amtrak has accepted delivery of its 19th Acela Express train and expects the 20th and final one soon, a sign of progress for the high-speed service that has had a ballyhooed but bumpy introduction.

Amtrak President David Gunn said Thursday that the passenger railroad and the maker of Acela Express, Bombardier Transportation, have agreed on a schedule in which trains _ sidelined in August because of a cracking problem beneath locomotives _ will be rotated out of duty for repairs and necessary equipment modifications.

Gunn said the two companies still need to agree on a permanent fix to the problem.

The high-speed service has still not returned to full strength in the Boston-New York-Washington Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak says it will begin next week offering nine daily weekday round trips between Boston and New York, up from eight. Acela Express trains were making nine weekday round trips between those cities before the cracks were discovered.

Rather than putting additional trains into service, Amtrak is cutting down on the layover time before the trains begin their return trip, Gunn said.

Acela Express service on the south end of the Northeast Corridor, between New York and Washington, continues at less than full strength.

There are 18 daily weekday round trips between Washington and New York, but six of those are covered by conventional Metroliner trains rather than the faster and more expensive Acela Express.

Even before the fleet was sidelined because of cracks around the trains’ shock-absorbing yaw dampers, Amtrak said all 18 of the high-speed trains in its possession needed repairs and modifications.

Over the summer the passenger railroad declined to accept delivery of a 19th train, citing modifications that were not made. But Gunn said Amtrak recently accepted delivery of an additional train that had most of the modifications Amtrak was seeking. The 20th train will be delivered soon, he said.

Gunn also said Thursday that the railroad is calling back 47 furloughed workers to its repair and maintenance facility in Bear, Del. Repairing damaged cars and returning them to service has become a priority for the Amtrak president.

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