Avelia Liberty/New Acela II's Speeds and Trip Times

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adamj023

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There will always be some work done on this line to improve speeds Including track sidings, adding additional tracks, straightening curves when possible including new bridges and tunnels, and electrical upgrades over the course of time. But it won’t be done all at once and won’t happen quickly. It took years to finish one section of track in Delaware. Its a never ending work in progress. Speeds will continually go up over time.
 
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You're not paying $4B for 2 minutes of time savings, you're paying for two more tracks and a 140 year newer piece of infrastructure that isn't falling apart and causing major delays when it does.
As someone who rides through that tunnel regularly, I'd really appreciate not having to worry about cave-ins and floods, and I'm sure Amtrak's insurers would, too.

The current tunnel was built in 1874 or thereabouts. I think a new one is in order.
 
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As someone who rides through that tunnel regularly, I'd really appreciate not having to worry about cave-ins and floods, and I'm sure Amtrak's insurers would, too.

The current tunnel was built in 1874 or thereabouts. I think a new one is in order.
Yeah, I thought this tunnel replacement wasn't just about speed, but about safety & maintenance.
 

jis

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How about North PHL thru Frankford JCT on to Trenton. A slow section with various speeds as low as 55?
All the slow sections are between CP Holms (Holmsburg) and Philly 30th St. Trenton to Holmsburg is pretty good, quit a bit of 125mph IIRC, except for a bit through Morris interlocking.

The Tier 1 EIS has a completely new alignment bypassing the Frankford curve, and a new alignment and bridge across the Schuylkill with a much shallower curve replacing the "River Line" curve by the Zoo tower. Basically the new alignment passes the Zoo on the 30th St side instead of the current alignment.

Incidentally, the high speed pair of tracks bypasses the Elizabeth S Curve and Elizabeth and North Elizabeth Station and Elmora interlocking through a tunnel on a straighter alignment with a gentle shallow single curve (no S). It runs through a trench then a tunnel and then a trench roughly between Linden Station and Lane Interlocking just south/west of EWR station. The high speed line also tunnels under on a new alignment between CP Hunter and CP Swift, with an underground station for Newark Penn Station at a level below the Newark LRT station.

The cost estimates for all this is outright eye watering.

But it has to be said that they are not aiming low at all. The target is 220mph max speed on the HS line which means there will be a lot of track center distance increase from the current constrained one in the 220mph sections.

But the good thing is that it is structured with as a potentially large number of projects of various sizes that can be tackled or not. The entire high speed through tunnels and viaducts bit can be avoided/postponed indefinitely if the situation dictates such, or small individual parts can be built in spurts as resources become available.
 
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GiantsFan

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I think every little bit helps. 2 min here, 1 min there ... it all adds up and overall time savings add up over time as all these small improvements happen. It doesn't have to be 220mph (for example) or nothing.
 
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I think every little bit helps. 2 min here, 1 min there ... it all adds up and overall time savings add up over time as all these small improvements happen. It doesn't have to be 220mph (for example) or nothing.
Even in our dreams, 220 is not happening. I generally think, (much to the displeasure of some on this board) that 220 (even 186) isn’t actually useful to us in the US (for many reasons) and we should instead focus on improving service and frequency while retaining the speeds we have. Though improving the slow sections to be faster is a great thing to do nonetheless.

I honestly don’t think that big changes will be made to the Acela in many of our lifetimes. Perhaps I’ll be telling my children about a past and much slower version of the train if we are lucky.
 

west point

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Even in our dreams, 220 is not happening. I generally think, (much to the displeasure of some on this board) that 220 isn’t actually useful to us in the US, and we should instead focus on improving service and frequency while retaining the speeds we have. Though improving the slow sections to be higher is a great thing to do nonetheless.

I honestly don’t think that big changes will be made to the Acela in many of our lifetimes. Perhaps I’ll be telling my children about a past and much slower version of the train if we are lucky.
You are on the right track! a little bit here a little bit there will eventually add up. Changing a schedule on the NEC is a very complicated endeavor. For changes of less than 15 minutes it probably is not worth doing. However, when you look at the USA / VIA map effective at 1446 this Wed afternoon all trains show green on the NEC with exception of one Acela 10 minutes late northbound out of PHL. Now the regionals and LD coming into WASH are many times going to be late.

To revise NEC schedules, it will take-------
1. Amtrak work up new schedule WASH <> NYP
2. MARC, SEPTA, and NJT will have to revise schedules.
3. SEPTA will have to revise connecting schedules at 30th street, Trenton.
4. NJT connections at Trenton, Newark, and Secaucus.
5. North of NYP Amtrak will have to mainly maintain schedules on MRR both to Albany and New Haven due to NRR's owning..
6. Springfield probably maintains same.
7. Shore Line East and MARC will need schedule changes.

8. The almost always late trains south of WASH will also have to be squeezing in an unexpected daily work around. Remember that most of the LD trains are limited to a slower 110 MPH speed limit. Now that may require Amtrak certifying the V-1s to 125 MPH.

All this just to massage schedules for less than 15 minutes? The question is does Amtrak even have the ability to proceed with these coming changes? Probably not until 2022 at earliest after Acela-2s in service.

Until most AX-2s are in service, all Regionals 125, MARC 125 capable. Schedules will not change. MARC due to operating on NEC's just 2 MT. That way Amtrak is not having to operate NYP <> WASH with 4 different max speeds. SEPTA and NJT have different max speeds but at least more than 2 MT.

Until then schedule AX-2s same as AX-1s. The -2s can run faster if needed to meet schedules.
 
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jis

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Amtrak and NJT jointly do schedule development for the NYP to Trenton section. There are many many more NJT trains than Amtrak trains on that section. The choreography in the working timetable between New York and Newark Penn Stations is a thing of beauty with trains diverging/converging at CP Swift to/from the M&E, and trains converging/diverging from/to Hoboken and Hudson Yard at CP Rea and CP Hudson, and then beyond Newark, trains diverging/converging Raritan Valley service at CP Hunter and Coast Line service at CP Union. Of course the time table is not done by hand. It is done using sophisticated flow modeling and time table apps.

Frankly I am not sure they worry too much about connections at Secaucus. There are so many corridor trains through there, they just designate a convenient one as the connection for some one or more Hoboken Division train at Secaucus Lower. They do make an effort to coordinate the SEPTA connection in Trenton.

I have played around a lot with the NJ part of the NEC modeling in Train Dispatcher. You can only understand the interdependence fully by seeing the thing run in real time.
 
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GiantsFan

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Even in our dreams, 220 is not happening. I generally think, (much to the displeasure of some on this board) that 220 (even 186) isn’t actually useful to us in the US (for many reasons) and we should instead focus on improving service and frequency while retaining the speeds we have. Though improving the slow sections to be faster is a great thing to do nonetheless.

I honestly don’t think that big changes will be made to the Acela in many of our lifetimes. Perhaps I’ll be telling my children about a past and much slower version of the train if we are lucky.
Yeah that’s pretty much what I’m saying. I think Speeding up the slow potions, even by a minute or two here and there - matter. Not getting to some crazy top speed number. And I agree on adding frequency!
 

jis

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At the very least, they should restore the frequency they had in February 2020.
On the NEC, for the Regionals it is likely to happen by late this year/early next year, unless of course nature intervenes in some unexpected way (which goes without saying these days I suppose). For Acelas it will be 2024 apparently. Business travel demand or lack thereof apparently may be the issue.
 

west point

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Again, every train on NEC o time as of 1522. Exception was 171 that had problems from PVD to NYP arrived 3:20 late. Amtrak stubbed 171 on time out of NYP.
 
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neroden

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There is an old railroader wisdom that says "if you want to go fast, don't go slow"

Going after slow sections delivers more in terms of overall time savings for the dollar than pushing top speeds up marginally in the few sections where they can be achieved.

I agree that it is wrong to single out the Elizabeth Curve in particular but there must be dozens of locations where speeds can be ramped up to 10 mph higher than today by relatively simple measures, sometimes as simple as catching up on deferred maintenance.
Yeah... some other examples:
For the entire Lake Shore Limited route, the biggest speedup would obviously be to get NS and CSX to dispatch it properly.

But AFTER that, the biggest speedup would be obtained by running at 79 mph from Chicago Union Station to the outskirts of Chicago, which currently trundles along at low speed. (This basically requires a new pair of tracks, due to congestion; there is plenty of room as there used to be another pair of tracks there. This is part of the so-called 'South of the Lake' project)

Before it was upgraded, the biggest speedup on the route was on the Empire Connection from NY Penn to the Harlem River -- it now goes at respectable speeds, and it formerly crawled, and it made a huge difference.

Another big speedup was from upgrading the low-speed track around the freight yard in Syracuse; I'm not sure whether this actually got done or not.

In general, getting rid of the lowest-speed sections is the best.

The Baltimore tunnel project is mostly due to the decrepitude of the existing tunnel, though.
 
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Achieving truly high speeds between New York and Philadelphia appeals so much because:

1. There is a high frequency of express trains on the line;
3. Many longer-distance routes ride over this “core section” of the Northeast Corridor and would thus see schedule improvements alongside New York-Philadelphia traffic;
4. And the line is already tantalizingly close to long stretches of high-speed running.

While improvements that themselves save 1-3 minutes might not sound like much, they add up, as others have remarked. Reducing an Acela schedule from NYP to 30th St. down to 45 minutes is not only possible, it’s relatively feasible, and a great showcase for true high-speed rail in the United States.

The two main speed impediments between New York and Newark (Portal Bridge and Sawtooth Bridges) are already slated for replacement. This should increase speed limits on the section to 90 mph for all trains, and the new Acela could possibly run 110 mph over this segment. In 1969, the PRR (well, alas, the PC, but perhaps my Pennsy affections are shining through) was able to run Metroliner 101 from NYP to NWK in 10 minutes. With Acela’s high speeds and tilting I would imagine even reducing this to 8-9 minutes would be possible, but even matching PRR’s 10 minute schedule would be a dramatic improvement for Amtrak.

The portion of the line that would benefit most from speed upgrades, though, is from Newark Penn Station to Zoo interlocking, directly north of 30th St. Station in Philadelphia. Constant-tension catenary, as others have pointed out, is necessary to get the Acela over 130 mph on the NEC. New Brunswick-Trenton (23 miles on 3 tracks) has already been upgraded for 450 million dollars. Assuming similar costs, Trenton-Philadelphia (33 miles) and New Brunswick-Newark (22 miles) could be upgraded for about 1.1 billion dollars.

With constant-tension cat, the only real impediment to constant 160-mph running from Newark to Zoo is 5 curves, 3 in New Jersey, and 2 in Pennsylvania. I would think that 180 mph would even be possible, but I defer to others on what the necessary track centers would be at that speed. (Does anyone know the track centers on Germany’s ICE lines or France’s LGV lines?) The five curves, their current speed limits, and their speed limits once improved are listed below.

1. Elizabeth S-Curve 55 mph-160 mph
2. Metropark S-Curve 100 mph-160 mph
3. Metuchen S-Curve 100 mph-160 mph
4. Torresdale S-Curve 110 mph-160 mph
5. Frankford Jct. S-Curve 35-160 mph

Elizabeth is likely the most difficult of the curves, but is nevertheless worth it when it is the only significant speed limit on the entire NYP-Philadelphia route.

With these improvements, it should take 10 minutes to get from New York Penn to Newark with 2 minutes of padding, and 35 minutes to get from Newark to 30th St. with 2 minutes or so of padding. That is a 25 minute reduction from Amtrak’s current schedule, and would revolutionize travel in the Northeast!
 

crescent-zephyr

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Elizabeth is likely the most difficult of the curves, but is nevertheless worth it when it is the only significant speed limit on the entire NYP-Philadelphia route.
At the risk of “obsessing over the Elizabeth S curve” I agree 100%. It’s not like a crazy amount of land needs to be acquired. I would spend a billion on that before constant tension even though both are needed.
 

jis

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At the risk of “obsessing over the Elizabeth S curve” I agree 100%. It’s not like a crazy amount of land needs to be acquired. I would spend a billion on that before constant tension even though both are needed.
The speed on Elizabeth curve is 80/70 now.

The Tier 1 EIS for the NEC proposes to tunnel under in that area to get a straight track with adequate track center distance, or avoid the track center issue altogether by using separate tunnel for each track. They don't mention exactly what speed, or none that I can find for specific segments. Their overall goal is to upgrade including track center distance increase needed to be capable of doing 220mph on significant parts of the corridor in NEC South.

If you wish to have a discussion that is vaguely grounded in today's reality I strongly recommend that you read up the Final NEC Tier 1 EIS. Specially look at Appenidx AA and BB. Beware that AA which is loaded with maps and diagrams is a large . over 20MB PDF file, but is an extremely useful reference as to what is currently planned with a goal of 220mph.
 

Ace

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AFAIK, the only place where 160 will actually happen is the stretch near Providence. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong.
Isn't NJ working on a project to allow 160 MPH between Trenton and New Brunswick?


NYC-DC is already close enough to a two hour stretch when they were running express trains. That section doesn’t need as much improvement as BOS-NYC, which I’m hoping the alleged improvements will shave off time. Even 20 minutes would make a big difference, but I doubt that will happen....
True, but even the express trains would require shaving 35 minutes off a 2 hour 35 minute trip. Where are they going to get it?


Complete agreement!
The tilting capabilities of the new Acelas however intrigue me, and I would be curious if that would improve time over arbitrary top speeds.
Yeah, you would think better tilting with trains that incorporate improvements in technology that have made in the past two decades would generate some improvement in speeds, especially in curves. Although maybe the tracks themselves are such a limiting factor it doesn't matter (I'm a newbie so not sure).


What will make a difference is the higher acceleration performance of the new sets. The NEC profile everywhere is such that one has to slow down and speed up a lot and the quicker that can be done the more time can be saved.
What kind of difference is there between the two sets in terms of acceleration?


That brings up an interesting point... what if the only benefit was the 2.5 minutes? What would that 2.5 minutes be worth to spend?
Good question. I know these Amtrak projects are grabbing headlines because they are high profile but road improvements are costly too. There is a proposal in my community that would cover a 6-7 mile stretch of a six-lane road (not a freeway) and save 2-4 minutes of commute time and the tab for that is $424 million. Stuff like this just doesn't get the coverage of things like Amtrak improvements because it is relevant only locally. We as a society are willing to pay this type of cost without hesitation. I would hope we did the same for rail corridors.

There will always be some work done on this line to improve speeds Including track sidings, adding additional tracks, straightening curves when possible including new bridges and tunnels, and electrical upgrades over the course of time. But it won’t be done all at once and won’t happen quickly. It took years to finish one section of track in Delaware. Its a never ending work in progress. Speeds will continually go up over time.
What did they do in Delaware?


Achieving truly high speeds between New York and Philadelphia appeals so much because:

1. There is a high frequency of express trains on the line;
3. Many longer-distance routes ride over this “core section” of the Northeast Corridor and would thus see schedule improvements alongside New York-Philadelphia traffic;
4. And the line is already tantalizingly close to long stretches of high-speed running.

While improvements that themselves save 1-3 minutes might not sound like much, they add up, as others have remarked. Reducing an Acela schedule from NYP to 30th St. down to 45 minutes is not only possible, it’s relatively feasible, and a great showcase for true high-speed rail in the United States.
That would be great. I think having proof of concept somewhere in the United States is key. Once it works somewhere, word will spread and other parts of the country will want to have it too. Right now the only people exposed to true HSR are people who have taken trains in Asia or Europe. That is a small percentage of the American population.
 
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Isn't NJ working on a project to allow 160 MPH between Trenton and New Brunswick?
This project won't happen by the time the new Acela's are released, nor does it really need to, given that NYC-DC trip times are fairly good.

True, but even the express trains would require shaving 35 minutes off a 2 hour 35 minute trip. Where are they going to get it?
There is no need to. Improvements on that part of the corridor are not urgent with only a few tunnel and bridge exceptions. And once those projects are completed, that 35 minutes will be brought down in no time.

That would be great. I think having proof of concept somewhere in the United States is key. Once it works somewhere, word will spread and other parts of the country will want to have it too. Right now the only people exposed to true HSR are people who have taken trains in Asia or Europe. That is a small percentage of the American population.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I don't think this is necessarily true for a few reasons.
Firstly, If there were good conventional rail service in the US, more people would take trains. True HSR isn't the only way to improve our trains... There are myriad other important factors that are figured into great rail service like frequency, OTP, and service/cleanliness that matter just as much as speed.

Second, the Acela is actually comparable to many "HSR" routes in Europe.
The Frecciarossa (considered by many as the best rail service in Europe) Milan-Venice route has close to identical distance and trip times to Acela NYP-WAS. Moreover, the NEC has roughly (though slightly less than) similar frequency too, so really the only thing to improve upon is shaving time off here and there, and improving OTP and service. And when the new Acela's arrive, half hour frequency will be possible, which will really make it comparable.
 
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Another thing they need to do on the NEC is improve connections with commuter rail, thus increasing the pool of potential riders who can ride from local stops instead of having to drive into a central station. There are extensive commuter rail systems on most of the larger NEC cities, but the trains don't run frequently enough to make them an attractive alternative. The other thing they need to do is develop some kind of joint ticketing with Amtrak, so one can switch trains without having to fool around with unfamiliar fare apps/farecards or whatever. I don't think increasing commuter rail frequencies will happen any time soon, at least not until we get an idea of what post-Covid traffic is going to look like.
 

jis

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Isn't NJ working on a project to allow 160 MPH between Trenton and New Brunswick?
Whatever was going to be done with the $450 Million that Amtrak got for this, is pretty much done. About two thirds of what was planned, if that, was done before they ran out of money. About half the length between CP County (NJT Jersey Avenue) to CP Fair (Trenton) may see speeds upto 160mph.

NJ had no involvement in this. It was an entirely Amtrak project.
 
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Whatever was going to be done with the $450 Million that Amtrak got for this, is pretty much done. About two thirds of what was planned, if that, was done before they ran out of money. About half the length between CP County (NJT Jersey Avenue) to CP Fair (Trenton) may see speeds upto 160mph.

NJ had no involvement in this. It was an entirely Amtrak project.
I didn't realize this was done. The last Acela trip I took on that part only saw up to 135. I'm guessing this was for a different reason?
 

jis

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I didn't realize this was done. The last Acela trip I took on that part only saw up to 135. I'm guessing this was for a different reason?
Speed limit apparently won't be raised for Acelas. They will go into effect with the Avelias. The necessary work to make that possible is done. The higher speed limits are only on tracks 2 and 3. Speed limit on tracks 1 and 4 will be raised from 110mph to 125mph too.
 
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