News: Amtrak cracks up

The best deals, the latest hot spots and what's new in travel
Click to follow
The Independent Travel

America's ailing rail network has suffered another blow. The nation's entire fleet of high-speed trains has been taken out of service because of problems with the brakes.

America's ailing rail network has suffered another blow. The nation's entire fleet of high-speed trains has been taken out of service because of problems with the brakes.

"Acela" trains were introduced four years ago on the Washington-New York-Boston line, and brought 125mph services to the US for the first time. But after cracks were discovered on steel spokes in a significant proportion of disc brakes, the high-speed trains were withdrawn last weekend.

Amtrak, which is the national train operator, is bringing in rolling stock from as far away as California to replace the high-speed trains, but journey times will increase substantially. The company is cautious about when services may be reinstated, though it is hoping that "the Acelas will gradually return to service this summer". Starting next Monday, 25 April, passengers without reservations will no longer be allowed on Washington-NewYork-Boston services.

The prestigious high-speed trains have proved popular with politicians and business travellers. When the Acela service is running normally, the journey time from New York to Washington is a little under three hours, and to Boston three hours and 20 minutes.

Pressure on airports means that city centre-to-city centre rail journeys are often faster than flying.

The shutdown of one of the few success stories on the US rail network could hardly have happened at a worse time. Amtrak, which is heavily subsidised, is under threat of having its federal funding abolished by the Bush administration.

If the plan goes through, passenger services on many lines will stop - victims of the decline that began half a century ago, when mass car ownership and cheaper flights began to lure Americans away from the nation's railways.

Commuter services will survive in the north-east, the Midwest and California, and a few lines will keep open for tourists. But the days of the great American railway adventure appear numbered.

Comments