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Delays expected: OIG report warns Amtrak's new Acela trainsets still face issues

Things aren’t looking great for Amtrak’s new Acela trainsets, which are already behind schedule to serve the Northeast Corridor.


A report released Tuesday from Amtrak’s Office of the Inspector General is raising new concerns about the trainsets’ delivery.


“Amtrak’s New Acela program will likely face future delays and cost increases because the vendor’s trainset designs have not yet met federal safety requirements and each of the trainsets the vendor has produced has defects that the vendor is required to fix or modify before the company launches revenue service,” an OIG press release said.


The OIG said many of the current issues are the responsibility of Alstom, the company that is manufacturing the new trains.


Among the issues the report identifies is Alstom’s failure to provide a federally compliant computer model on the train’s performance, which is required before Amtrak can formally begin testing.


In addition, the OIG report says Alstom has produced 12 of 28 ordered trainsets and 22 of 28 ordered cafe cars, and there are defects in everything that has been delivered to the railroad.


“Some defects are safety related, such as water drainage between cars causing components that hold the cars together to corrode. Others are described as functional. For example, the vendor previously reported that five windows on the trains shattered spontaneously and that the trainsets’ hydraulic tilting systems leaked. A final category of defects deals with aesthetic issues, such as misaligned ceiling panels in the café cars and delamination of their floors,” OIG’s press release said.


Amtrak’s new Acela fleet was initially scheduled to enter service in 2021.


"We want our customers to experience these new trains as soon as possible, but as noted in the report, Amtrak cannot operate them for passenger service until Alstom has completed testing and meets all safety requirements,” a statement from Amtrak said. “We have learned a lot through this process and have already made significant improvements to our procedures and program management, as noted in the OIG report. Not only have these changes helped with the new Acela procurement, but they will also provide a more efficient process for future equipment acquisitions.


OIG warns that further delays and cost overruns seem likely given the current state of the new Acela program and the issues identified in the report.

For its part, Amtrak said it expects the new trains to enter into service in 2024, but has not announced an exact date.


Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at zwichter@usatoday.com


This article originally appeared on USA Today.


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