Amtrak unveils locomotives to replace aging fleet

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 13, 2013 at 10:14 am •  Published: May 13, 2013
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They also feature crumple zones, which are basically cages built onto the front end of the train that can absorb impact from a collision. The new models will be the first in North America to use them, in compliance with new federal safety guidelines, Cahill said.

The locomotives, called Amtrak Cities Sprinters, are based on Siemens' latest European electric locomotive and will replace Amtrak equipment that has been in service for 20 to 30 years and has logged an average of 3.5 million miles.

Simply having the same type of locomotive in operation should cut costs, according to Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm. Amtrak now uses three locomotive models, requiring slightly different maintenance, parts and training.

"Now, we will have one model, one inventory and one training program, and all that will help efficiency," Kulm said.

About 750 people are employed at Siemens' Sacramento plant. The locomotive project also involves Siemens plants in Columbus, Ohio, Richland, Miss., and Alpharetta, Ga.

The ripple effect spreads farther. As a condition of the Department of Transportation loan, the majority of the products and materials used to build the locomotives must be made in the U.S. As a result, some lighting parts are coming from Connecticut, the driver's seat from Wisconsin, insulation from Indiana, electronics from Texas and hydraulic parts from California. In all, 70 suppliers in 23 states are providing components, Siemens said.

Amtrak must still seek federal funding for a long list of planned and ongoing improvements, including replacing sections of pre-World War II electrical systems on the Northeast Corridor that cause regular disruptions. The fact that Amtrak has reduced its debt by 60 percent over the last 10 years and its federal operating subsidy to 12 percent could make it an easier sell.

"Ten years ago we were in a tougher spot," Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman said last week. "Now Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor is in a much healthier position. We're trying to maximize that, to the extent we can, to pay for what we should pay for on the Northeast Corridor."