December 9, 2023
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National passenger railroad operator Amtrak recently unveiled new trainsets called “Airo” scheduled for debut in 2026 on routes throughout the country.

[Above image by Amtrak]

Routes include the Amtrak Northeast Regional, Empire Service, Virginia Services, Keystone Service, Downeaster, Cascades, Maple Leaf, New Haven/Springfield Service, Palmetto, Carolinian, Pennsylvanian, Vermonter, Ethan Allen Express and Adirondack.

Amtrak’s Roger Harris

“As we invest in the future, Amtrak is leading the way with a new era of rail,” said Amtrak President Roger Harris in a statement. “Our new trains will transform the Amtrak experience with significant environmental benefits, a progressive design and world-class amenities.”

A share of funding from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA funding will support the procurement of Amtrak Airo trainsets, manufactured by Siemens Mobility Inc. in California; part of a $7.3 billion deal Amtrak signed with Siemens in July 2021 to build up to 83 new trains for deployment on various state-supported and long-distance routes.

The new Airo trains will operate at speeds up to 125 mph and offer “near seamless” transition between power sources to reduce time-consuming locomotive changes, Amtrak said, and are touted to be more fuel-efficient as well and produce 90 percent less particulate emissions in diesel operations.

Photo by Amtrak

The new Airo rail cars will feature a host of passenger amenities as well, with more specious seating and legroom, enhanced lighting, improved technology with digital customer information systems and touchless restroom controls, dedicated individual outlets, and onboard Wi-Fi, among many other new features.

“Americans deserve modern, safe, reliable passenger rail service, and introducing brand new rail cars is a major step towards improving the daily experience of commuters and travelers who depend on Amtrak,” said Amit Bose, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

“This year, FRA provided nearly $4.3 billion in annual funding to support these improvements [and] we’re poised to make intercity passenger rail an even more efficient, convenient and accessible mode of travel for Americans.”

Image by Amtrak

“Amtrak Cascades is eager to welcome new trains to our scenic 18-city route linking Washington, Oregon and British Columbia,” said Ron Pate, director of rail, freight and ports at the Washington State Department of Transportation, in a separate statement.

“The branding of our new trains is unique to the Amtrak Cascades corridor, distinguishing them from others in the Amtrak fleet,” he noted. “Their arrival will herald a new generation of train travel in the Pacific Northwest.”

Improvements such as the deployment of new trains reflect the vision for more state DOT involvement in Amtrak service expressed by Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s CEO, during the luncheon keynote speech at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Council on Rail Transportation’s legislative meeting on in Washington, D.C., in February.

“Now we need to build much greater scale with the investment dollars we’ve been given, addressing decades of underinvestment,” Gardner pointed out. “We also must find the best ways to enable your vision for corridor growth – so we want to be a better partner for planning. Our vision is to improve on collaboration and responsiveness, adding capacity to support individual state objectives.”