Amtrak Suspends Most Acela Service
Aug. 13, 2002
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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Amtrak suspended most of its high-speed Acela Express service Tuesday so it could inspect the trains for cracks in shock absorbers beneath their locomotive cars.
Amtrak found the cracks below two Acela Express locomotives. At least three trains that passed the inspection Monday night were expected to be in service, however, spokesman Bill Schulz said.
Inspections were continuing on Amtrak's 13 additional Acela Express trains, which operate only between Washington, D.C., New York and Boston.
Other Amtrak trains that serve the busy Northeast Corridor, including Acela Regional and Metroliner service, are not affected.
``We're bringing as much equipment as we can into service to make up for the shortfall,'' Schulz said.
Amtrak pledged to credit passengers for the difference in ticket prices between Acela Express and the trains they take.
Amtrak encouraged its passengers to check departures by visiting its Web site or calling (800) USA-RAIL.
The trains are built by a consortium of Canada's Bombardier Transportation and France's Alstom Ltd. Amtrak is working with Bombardier on a plan to repair and standardize the 18 trains in use.
Amtrak's all-reserved Metroliner service, which runs slightly slower than Acela Express, used to be the Northeast's premier service. Amtrak's original plan was to phase out the Metroliner and replace it with Acela Express, which has more amenities and a higher ticket price.
The first cracked yaw damper bracket was discovered Monday during a periodic maintenance inspection. Each power car has four yaw dampers, which reduce its lateral motion during travel.
Amtrak said it immediately directed Bombardier and Alstom, and its subsidiary maintenance company, to inspect all such brackets. Cracks were discovered in the brackets of two more trains by late Monday.
Amtrak officials say that mechanical problems aside, Acela Express has been a success in attracting riders. Amtrak trains now carry more passengers between Washington and New York each day than do the US Airways and Delta shuttles combined.
The decision to pull the Acela Express trains is the latest blow for Amtrak. The railroad suffered a cash crisis so severe this summer that it needed $205 million from the government to avert a nationwide shutdown.
When Acela Express was introduced less than two years ago, Amtrak was hopeful the high-speed trains would carry the railroad into the 21st century. But equipment problems and unreliable service have plagued Acela Express.
The trains, introduced less than two years ago and capable of reaching speeds up to 150 mph, have posted the worst on-time performance record this year among all Amtrak trains in the heavily traveled Northeast corridor.
And in July, 35 Acela Express trains were canceled before leaving the station or terminated before reaching their destination. Most of those cancellations were due to equipment problems.
On a typical day, Amtrak sends 15 Acela Express trains into service and keeps three in reserve.
Amtrak announced earlier this month that all 18 of the high-speed trains need repairs and modifications. The passenger railroad declined to accept delivery of a 19th train, citing modifications that were not made.
On the Net: Amtrak: http://www.amtrak.com