Amtrak, CHSRA want to set a standard

About a month ago, officials from Amtrak and the California High-Speed Rail Authority announced they were partnering to explore procurement opportunities for high-speed trains. It's an interesting prospect; a combined order could help create a high-speed rail industry of sorts in the United States. But the California and Northeast Corridor projects are very different, so how could one similar piece of equipment work for both? Amtrak and CHSRA execs are leaving that to the equipment manufacturers. They issued a request for information from manufacturers that will hopefully tell the two parties how far they can push the standardization envelope. To learn more about Amtrak's and CHSRA's partnership — and what they hope to gain from it — check out this article that ran in the February issue of Progressive Railroading

6 Replies

  • Regarding the proposed coordination of passenger equipment design for both CHSRA and NEC; I believe in my professional engineering view that this direction is totally wrong! The NEC, which I have been a passenger on, has a huge amount of compound curves. For any rail high-tech advancement this rail corridor requires a different car wheelbase and wheel truck design. Track curves present unique design challenges specific to load, force and curve angle calculations. The California route will permit miles of straight-a-way opportunities for very high-speed travel that the NEC will not! Both of these high-speed rail lines will also be using different speed grades of steel rail profile. When politicians and organizations such as the CHSRA get together lots of unspecific generalities and oversights are thrown around to the media. The future of high-speed rail in America would be better served technology wise if these two rail passenger authorities would see the light and take separate design directions! I also believe that car construction should be 100% United States located and also, 100% design and research all here in our very high-tech design facilities already in position to produce. Historically companies such as Pullman Standard, ACF and the Budd Company designed and built the world's best rail passenger cars right here in our country. This can be organized very easily in the near future. After all; our aircraft design and manufacture is the ultimate on the world market! There is no reason high-speed rail car design and assembly should involve foreign profit and influence. Why give away any advantage to Europe or Asia, think about it rail industry and citizen activists. If we are to continue leading the world in rail technology we must do it independently from foreign design influence and parts supply. High-speed rail progress presents and valuable opportunity for all-American jobs and engineering.  There is tremendous logic and practical application to my argument put forward here. I just wish more politicians and federal officials would see it my way!

  • In reply to goldenspike:

    I would take a few exception with goldenspike.

    I'm not sure if CHSR will be totally segregated from Caltrain, Metrolink, and Amtrak and qualify for an exemption from FRA strength and collision requirements.  Similarly, would PTC allow a waiver on both the NEC and CHSR?  Why is a distinction necessary between Acela and Regional equipment?   Furthermore, I don't think ethnic differences are so great between the Northeast and California to accommodate the differences.  Perhaps a single design would suffice?

    Other than wheel profiles and spring rates, how dissimilar would the trucks be?

    The sharper NEC curves at 125 mph, compound or otherwise, are similar in angular velocity to the broader CHSR curves at 220 mph.  

    The miles of straightaway would not seem to be relevant since trains must track well on tangents on both lines.

    Unless a sufficient market can be created with a commitment for additional or extended hsr corridors, it makes little sense to me to insist on American manufacture unless the extra cost is accepted by the government and mitigated by the domestic economic impact.  

  • In reply to HarveyK400:

    To comment on the very good and fact-rich letter by "HarveyK400". I professionally believe that standardization limits technological advancements. Witness the motive power design variations historically in the 1930's. Union Pacific utilized advanced steam-power design, EMD diesel-electric locomotives, heavy duty steam-turbine engines! Concurrently in the same time frame eastern railroads pushed the technology of steam-power to the limits. Various steam power reached to 20,000-HP! The past excellence in American technological eras' makes it very clear that design variety and installation depending on geography and high-speed opportunities should be pursued.

  • In reply to goldenspike:

    I have several comments related to the planned collaboration by Amtrak and CHSRA.

    1. From what I have gathered from those respective organization leaders, they do recognize that their will be differences in the bogie or truck designs. The differences will generally be related to the differences in the alignments and speeds of the two operations.  The collaboration is intended to reduce costs by combining what might otherwise be two smaller procurements.  In my opinion, this represents great planning.

    2. While I am not a rolling stock expert, I do know that "stiffer" trucks are typical of the highest speed trains.  The stiffer trucks enhance the stability of the trains on tangent tracks.

    3. The move by Amtrak and CHSRA to procure "service-proven" designs, is a much better approach than attempting to develop our own version of high speed train sets.  By entering the high speed rail arena as late as the U.S. is, we benefit from all the trials and improvements that have taken place over the past four decades.  With the Buy America requirement, the train sets will be produced here but will include technology which has been well proven.

    4. To my understanding, the FRA has already adequately dealt with the "crash worthiness" issue.  They have formed a task force with industry stakeholders to evaluate alternative designs.  The FRA recognizes that lighter vehicles will be required to move at higher speeds.

  • In reply to Blaine Peterson:

    While the engineering aspects of this discussion are adressable a key component of the discussion is missing.The current political situation and detailed public reviewas a result almost demands a standardized train set be established.  The economy of scale will provide many benefits.  Political ammunition from opponnents is lowered, positive public perception, manufacturing complexity reduced all provide positive aspects.  Getting a HSR system  will be a difficult process.  Standardized train sets should be a part of that.

  • In reply to patco13:

    Standardization doesn't last forever.  I've lost count; but it seems that the Japanese Shinkansen has evolved with a number of series over almost 50 years that are more than can be counted on one hand.  In that perspective, Acela obsolescence isn't unique; and Amtrak and CHSRA can be expected to evolve as well.

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