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New high-speed trains for Amtrak's Northeast Corridor

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Chinese high-speed trains can move at an average speed of 217 miles per hour. The fastest American train today - Amtrak's Acela Express - averages only 86 miles per hour.

But Amtrak, which has struggled to stay out of the red in recent years, has plans to replace its 20 Acela Express trains with new, high-speed models.

"Moving directly to new high-speed train sets is the best option to create more seating capacity, permit higher speeds, and maximize customer comfort all while improving equipment reliability and reducing operating costs," Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman said in a statement.

The company's existing fleet has been in operation since between 1999 and 2000. The new trains would begin service within five to seven years.

All this is part of Amtrak's ambitious plan to improve its high-speed rail service over the next 30 years. The plan is estimated to cost as much as $117 billion, making it the country's most expensive engineering project since the Interstate Highway project.

While simply replacing the trains themselves won't entirely revolutionize the system - a complete overhaul would involve replacing tracks, tunnels, and stations, as well as trains - the new trains could run from New York City to Washington, D.C. in 96 minutes, according to CNN.

And with rail ridership on the rise - a record 31.2 million people took the train around the country in the year to September 30, and 11.4 million of those were along the Northeast Corridor - Amtrak's move could be a step towards bringing American rail travel into the 21st century.

Photo: Flickr/John Mueller

via [CNN]

— By on December 13, 2012, 7:05 PM PST

Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure