AMTRAK & California’s High-Speed Rail Plan to Travel at 220MPH

January 17, 2013 9:00 am · 56 comments

Amtrak and the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) are joining forces in the search for proven high-speed rail (HSR) train sets currently being manufactured and in commercial service that are capable of operating safely at speeds up to 220 mph on both Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) and on California’s developing HSR corridor.

Amtrak, in conjunction with California, is today formally issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to start the process. The partnership advances each of their respective HSR programs, and could create efficiencies by ordering trains of similar specifications and develop a U.S. standard for HSR train equipment that can be manufactured and supplied domestically and produced for the rest of the world. A Request for Proposal could be issued by September 2013 with an order placed during 2014.

“High-speed rail is right for America and Amtrak working with California to advance both our programs makes a lot of sense,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman. “For Amtrak, new high-speed train sets on the NEC means more seats, more frequent high-speed service and an ability to take advantage of higher speeds as the infrastructure is improved.”

“This is about investing in 21st Century state-of-the art high-speed rail,” said California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales. “We are pleased to join with Amtrak and look forward to continued collaboration in the future. This is a natural fit since Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and California will be the bookends for American high-speed rail.”

“We applaud both Amtrak and the California High-Speed Rail Authority for answering our call to explore joint procurement of the next generation of high-speed rail equipment,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “Combining orders will make it easier and more attractive for high-speed rail manufacturers to build factories here in the USA, bringing new high quality jobs and creating ripple effects throughout our domestic supply chain. The end result means the riding public will have lighter, faster, more energy efficient passenger rail equipment.”

Due to the consistently strong and record setting NEC ridership over the past 10 years, Amtrak needs new and additional HSR equipment. The Amtrak plan envisions an initial acquisition of up to 12 new HSR train sets to supplement current Acela Express service and add seating capacity in the near term. Then, Amtrak would look to replace the 20 current Acela train sets in the early 2020s. California plans a first order of 27 HSR train sets.

Specifically, Amtrak is seeking a HSR train set able to operate at the current NEC maximum speed of 150 mph and can subsequently operate at up to 220 mph as the tracks and other infrastructure is improved to support the higher speeds. In addition, the preferred train set has Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) power distribution among all cars, operates bi-directionally with a cab car on each end that allows for passenger occupancy and has a seating capacity of 400 to 600 passengers.

CHSRA is seeking a HSR train set able to operate up to 220 mph and has Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) power distribution among all cars, operates bi-directionally with a cab on each end that allows for passenger occupancy that has a seating capacity of 450 to 500 passengers per 656 feet train set.

mike mac January 17, 2013 at 9:09 AM

Most planes carry at least 120 people. How much will the cost be per person? Will the trains have the occupancy? Where are the stops? How long will it take to go from Merced to Fresno?

Boneguy1 January 17, 2013 at 9:12 AM

220 mph and Billions of dollars of taxpayers subsides later – a few elite liberals get us to nowhere fast !

OLD GRINGO January 17, 2013 at 9:19 AM

This is a good thing glad to hear it. I wish they would put all this high speed rail stuff on the fast track.

Connie Dobbs January 17, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Cool. How many stops will it make?

I've taken Amtrak somewhere January 17, 2013 at 9:32 AM

And it was horrible. I could have driven in about 1/3 the time, at less cost- so I’m pretty sceptical about them operating “high-speed” service.

What's the hurry? Waste of $$$$ January 17, 2013 at 9:36 AM

If they want infrastructure jobs….then fix what we already have.

Who wants to go to Fresno at 220 MPH? If you build it, they will come? NO.
Look at the current AmTrak system. Work on improving that. And, what’s your hurry? Current travel time from Martinez to much better than driving or taking (ewwww) a bus. If you don’t like to fly, the train is great, the scenery is great (through the Rockies), and you can have decent meals and your own clubette sleeper. Try it. What’s the hurry?

Whacka January 17, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Does either California of AMTRAK have a balanced budget?

Pegasus January 17, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Wow, that’s fast. I wonder how far a derailed train will travel at that speed.
Any math geeks want to calculate for us?

slagheap January 17, 2013 at 9:39 AM

what a disaster this is – spending ( in the end ) a couple of hundred billion for a ” bullet train ” that will take 8 hours to get to L.A. this 220 mph crap is 100% smoke & mirrors, a boondoggle for the ages. mind you, i loathe the GOP, and hold any & all teapublicans in deep contempt, and i have no political objection against spending the dough. indeed, i’m all for infrastructure improvement, but seeing this project unfold is like watching a nightmare sequence in a B movie. this will be an 80 mph ” bullet train ” for an hour or two, the remainder will be the same as it is now, 50 – 60 mph and endless problems with the track, switching, other trains, stations assigned & constructed as political patronage, etc. what a shame…

Dragon January 17, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Along the lines of Pegasus’ inquiry, I’m wondering what’ll happen when someone, inevitably, tries to cross the tracks in front of the train. We can’t keep people from crossing tracks unsafely even when there’s plenty of warning and time to get out of the way of a train on the much slower Caltrain system – when the train’s coming at you at 220 mph, you won’t hear it, much less have time to scramble off the track.

Dumb ways to die, indeed.

Mac January 17, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Feel sorry for any animals or people that get in it`s way.
At that speed it will take a while to come to a stop.

Enough Already January 17, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Really. . .

When pigs fly!

Mr. John January 17, 2013 at 10:10 AM

I know this is news worthy and interesting, but is it really Claycord news? I love that this site usually focuses on the 5 to 10 miles in and around Claycord.

High speed train could be a blessing for people that need to travel for work between SF and LA. 2:40 to get from downtown SF to downtown LA is about the same as taking BART from downtown SF to an airport, getting on a plane, flying down and taking transportation down there to wherever you need to go. Plus, there should be added levels of comfort on the train.

Of course, I think this should be entirely funded by loans and ticket revenues. If that combination won’t pay for it, then we don’t need it.

Anonymous January 17, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Just what I want to do , go to Coalinga ,Fresno and LA.course I wont have a car when I get there…

Jazzguy January 17, 2013 at 10:20 AM

It is reckless waste of public money to build this train in the era of out of control federal and state spending! For what? Euro-envy? Gerry’s legacy? “Green jobs”? Yeah,right. I wonder if the people who voted for this RR spent more than 30 seconds analyzing the proposition.I have serious doubts.

Fact: Amtrak loses around 1.5 $billion yearly in operating costs.
Fact: Amtrak has a poor on-time record.
Fact: Railroads got out of the passenger business in the 50’s and 60’s because it was unprofitable to compete against cars and airlines.
Fact: Gerry Brown is looking for a legacy-he said so.
Fact: The Federal and State gov’ts are poised to compete against airlines in the second busiest air corridor in the world-SF to LA. Good luck!
Fact: It will definitely be a permanent drain on taxpayers subsidizing losses for as long as it is in operation. It costs less per mile to fly.
Fact: 60% of air travel is business-American corporations aren’t going to wait for a train to pull in vs. flying. They want their people there now.


WC44 January 17, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Shouldn’t they try a system that can average 60 MPH first? The only thing more optomistic than the 220MPH speed is the ridership projections.

Don't Censor Me Bro January 17, 2013 at 10:23 AM

@slagheap #9 – Too bad you don’t have the facts. most Amtrak trains, per FRA, travel at 79 MPH (and some at faster rates). Try doing a little research first?

Money Laundering January 17, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Follow the money…….

1. Politicians in Sacramento approve stupid idea that we can’t afford and nobody in their right mind would approve.


3. UNIONS send money for politicians re-election.

4. Politicians end up with the money.

5. Corruption at its finest.

Its the War, dummy January 17, 2013 at 10:58 AM

The high speed rail system will be clogged with illegals, meth heads and other criminals.

State Welfare will pay for their tickets.

No one else will dare ride the damn thing.

skippy January 17, 2013 at 11:01 AM

i’m sure the Wright Brothers had their detractors too. I love the idea of SF to LA in 3 hours of comfort with none of the security hassels of flying. Just look at Europe, Japan and China if you think it can’t work. Some people are never happy.

nytemuvr January 17, 2013 at 11:04 AM

@Don’t Censor Me Bro #17
When I was drivng a truck cross-country in the 80s, out in the Nevada deserts, much to my surprise the trains would run away from me doing 70-75 mph. I haven’t ridden a train(except the Skunk) and was blown away they could crank the trains up to that speed.

Mac January 17, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Being at Disneyland in 3 hours would be kind of cool.

Foamer January 17, 2013 at 11:22 AM

@Don’t Censor Me Bro #17
How fast are they going when they’re sitting on a siding waiting for freight traffic to clear?

slagheap January 17, 2013 at 11:43 AM

hey, censorbro, their figures mean nada. what we need to know is how many hours from here to there. i extrapolated that 60 mph from my experiences ( MANY TRIPS ) from emeryville to union station. minimum two hours late a good portion ( 1/3? ) of the time. twice, due to problems with the track or problems with other trains on the track, we passengers disembarked and finished the trip via bus. if anybody thinks the projected all new system will run like the japanese trains…well, better make the price tag half-a-trillion.

anon January 17, 2013 at 12:08 PM

The CHSRA is a government organization. The “CEO” is deliberately misleading. Jeff Morales is a bureaucrat, not an executive.

ClayDen January 17, 2013 at 12:09 PM

Add a restricted high speed lane to I-5 (100mph would work), and you would save a lot of money, and you could get to LA in about the same time door to door as a 220mph train. And you don’t have to get fondled by the TSA to drive your car and wait in line to do so. You can drive to LA in about 5 1/2 hours now on I-5 without going over ~82mph (and not much under either) if you manage to miss the traffic and don’t spend time stopped. I’ve made it from LAX to Clayton in 5:10 doing this. One quick stop at Starbucks, no gas stop, left LAX at 0600.

Don't Censor Me Bro January 17, 2013 at 12:13 PM

@ F #23, when the estimated time to travel from point A to Point B is 45 minutes and the train arrives on time (Lo and behold by making time up –{{{{shocker}}}} for those NOT in the know) what does it matter, pray tell?

Pegasus January 17, 2013 at 12:18 PM

At that speed hundreds of people could be killed in a single incident. I can see Boxer & Feinstein now, creating legislation to ban bullet trains and high speed travel. “Oh the humanity?”

Don't Censor Me Bro January 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Naysayers –
Consider Capitol Corridor’s 95% (best in US) on time rate to US Airlines 79%.


Kirkwood January 17, 2013 at 12:24 PM

HSR works in other countries partly because traveling by auto is too slow and expensive. HSR’s are totally subsidized by their governments with little participation by local govt’s, and in totalitarian countries, land for trackage is simply confiscated with little or no compensation. Could you see THAT happening in Calif? I like the concept of HSR but I don’t think it will become practical for another 40-50 years

As for the track safety issue, Japan’s right of way is totally fenced because of that country’s suicide rate. Europe, not so much, they take a more pragmatic approach to personal safety, less worry about litigation.

Don't Censor Me Bro January 17, 2013 at 12:24 PM

#24 exactly how many trips is “MANY?”

Triple Canopy January 17, 2013 at 12:40 PM


Kirkwood January 17, 2013 at 12:40 PM

B.T.W. when BART was being sold to the public we were promised 90 mph trains and 3-4 minutes between trains at stations.

anon January 17, 2013 at 12:55 PM

#20 – There is no valid comparison to the Wright Brothers when it comes to HSR. This is a financial boondoggle intended to make a lot of politically connected people very wealthy, provide jobs for termed-out politicians, and sold as a pretty green package to the Boobus Californicus (ie. those who would compare a giant political welfare scheme to innovation.)

Cy Nical January 17, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Why don’t we fix the infrastructure we already have? Answer- we don’t have the money…..

Palermo January 17, 2013 at 1:17 PM

I know it’s not financially feasible, but I would LOVE a cross country train that travelled that fast. I have taken the train from here to Michigan many times and it is so much better than flying, no comparison. You can stand up, you can walk around, you can lie down. You can have your own quiet compartment, take a shower. It is the difference between heaven and the hell of being squashed to death in a flying metal coffin.

Elwood January 17, 2013 at 1:23 PM

I call bulls**t!

good grief January 17, 2013 at 1:28 PM

One of the dumbest things ever done in the state and that is really saying something! No WAY any of these trains makes it to LA in 3 hours.between getting to the station, parking, TSA gropes, it’ll still be faster to drive.

But THEY don’t want you to drive…SUBMIT!!

KJ January 17, 2013 at 1:37 PM

Years ago I took the train across Canada — twice! They were wonderful trips. I’ve also ridden the Great Northern to Chicago and the California Zephyr to Salt Lake City. Given the choice between train or car, or train or airplane — I’d take the train every time.

I’m glad to see the US getting serious about improving rail transportation.

Seal January 17, 2013 at 1:56 PM

I am 100% behind this–if it does what it’s supposed to do. Who wouldn’t want a high speed rail system–fast trip to LA and back? But………will this really happen?

the mandrake January 17, 2013 at 2:11 PM

whoo hoo!
Grip and Rip muthas!

Stupid Should Hurt January 17, 2013 at 2:11 PM

Why would I go to LA @ 220 mph- not including the 15 stops- on a train when I can get there @ 500 mph on a plane?

Planes make that trip many times a day from many locations, to many locations.

Planes are faster, more convenient and no doubt cheaper the the proposed alternative.

Remind me again why we are building this white elephant?

Pegasus January 17, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Spending that much money should be put to a vote.

Ricardoh January 17, 2013 at 3:43 PM

By the time they ever get around to building this thing they will have train speeds up near the speed of sound. A better idea would be to make I 5 into a six or eight lane highway. Maybe one lane for ninety miles an hour. It is hard to make time on the road due to trucks passing one another at fifty six miles an hour.

Don P... North Cawncord January 17, 2013 at 4:26 PM

This is insanely stupid and wasteful

skippy January 17, 2013 at 5:27 PM

@Kirkwood-guess you haven’t ridden Bart during commute hours. Trains run at 80-ish mph and are appx 5 min apart so what’s the beef? Maybe we shouldn’t have built that either? And HSR will have a dedicated rail unlike current Amtrak which does stop for freight trains. Good Lord people get your facts straight and get out of the way of progress.

Anon January 17, 2013 at 5:58 PM

Hmmm, ring of fire plus high speed rail equals 100s of casualties. Aren’t are leaders so smart?

JG27 AD January 17, 2013 at 8:00 PM

The problem is there are mountains between here and LA. So unless you wish to build a long, long tunnel “you can’t get there from here”. Thats why the end of the line is near Bakersfield.

With airline security and airport parking the equlivent travel time is somewhere around 5 hours driving time.

If you have the time AMTRAK is a great way to go across country. But lets face it, if rail travel made any business sense then the railroads would still be in it. The interstate system and the Boeing 707 did passenger rail in.


Jazzguy January 17, 2013 at 8:35 PM

@Pegasus-It already passed in 2008 (proposition 1A). It came out of nowhere, all of a sudden we just gotta have this RR so we can emulate Europe. It is a loser on paper and will continue to burden the taxpayers.
There is no way the train can compete with air travel. None.
6 Socal airports–Burbank
Long Beach
John Wayne
San Diego-Lindbergh Field.
3 Norcal airports–San Francisco
Norm Minetta
Air travel is definitely a more convenient travel mode. Less expensive-no tax subsidies necessary. Quicker for more people.
The HSR project was sold with grandiose images of wind generators and solar panels powering the system as it glides to its next destination.The cost tripled within 6 months of passage and was scaled back-still way over the estimate given before the election.
The California taxpayer is a gullible one.

Fred P. January 17, 2013 at 9:16 PM

@JG27AD – so it sounds like there’ll have to be a bus link between the Grapevine and LA – which will take another hour.

Once again, the idiot politicians sold a bag of $hit to the idiot voters…

Got Security January 17, 2013 at 9:56 PM

Acela Express service operates in the densely populated North East corridor of the US. California HSR projected seating capacity of 450 to 500 passengers and operating speeds of say 150 to 220 mph . Jet airliner landing speeds are roughly 135 to 180 mph and we know what they look like when they go wrong. Airliners 747 holds 360 passengers, Airbus 380 about 650 passengers.

So is moonbeam just building a very expensive terrorist target?

CA seems to attract Nut Cases and completed system roughly 800 miles. Just how do they protect 800 miles of track from the whack jobs and terrorists? Areas in Central Valley are sparsely populated an have limited numbers of first responders and emergency equipment. What would be the response time for first responders to reach a crash?

Elwood January 17, 2013 at 10:50 PM

@ skippy #46

Bart trains have a maximum speed of 70. They tried running them at 80 and they fell apart.

The system was sold to the voters as 80mph trains on 3 minute headways. And everyone would have a seat.

How’s that working out for you, Skippy?

So, considering how the reality of BART turned out, what do you think the final version of the high speed choo choo to nowhere might look like?

co-co-res January 18, 2013 at 12:37 AM

Now we get single-tracking through the transbay tube for the next 13 months which will mean late night workers will be plagued with delays. BART is so much less than what was promised. They don’t realize it is standing room only at night too and they already have cut back service. BART screws night workers and commuters and plans poorly for events. If you take a train after 10:00 p.m. for the next 13 months, they are saying prepared to be delayed. If BART has to do repairs in the Transbay Tube, why can’t they have a modified real time schedule that works. People traveling to Antioch and Brentwood via Pittsburg BART won’t be able to make their late night connections. I don’t understand why BART can’t find another path for these repairs besides MONUMENTALLY inconveniencing their commuters. The late night commute is already miserable and may delays and unscheduled stops and BART just keeps adding more and thanking us for our patience. I, for one, AM SO FED UP! I can’t believe how much money is spent on this crappy system that never seems to be fixed. they let run down, the trains are so crowded it MAJORLY unsafe and no one BART does anything about anything except more inconveniences. BART should have figured out the maintenance issues into the system during the design phase so it can provide normal service when maintenance needs to be done. I am really disappointed BART is doing this. Single tracking sucks!

co-co-res January 18, 2013 at 12:40 AM

the comment about the trains falling apart at 80 mph should speak volumes about BART’s system and how safe it is.

hey! January 18, 2013 at 8:32 AM

When BART was first planned in the 60’s and came on line in the 70’s the population was not what it is today.

So many people complain about the price of gas, TSA, and now HSR.

I do not like to fly, so I am looking forward HSR across the whole US. It’s sad that we trail behind Europe public transportation.

Dragon January 18, 2013 at 8:51 AM


When would you recommend that BART complete the repairs, if not during the late night hours? The system is only offline for about 4 hours daily during the week; that’s not enough time to get any proper work done, with setup and shut down and health and safety issues. They can’t take the system offline during the day without wreaking havoc across the entire Bay Area.

That leaves overnight -and- part of the late night time period.

And, yes, it would be nice if there were a seat for each passenger. When it was built, that’s what the riders got. But the population has exploded since then and BART is now a victim of its own popularity. Its own necessity, really – when the Transbay Tube was shut down last year after that fire, the commute was a nightmare. Some of us were lucky enough to be able to work from home, but most people still had to get to their jobs.

I still have major pain from an illness last year and I was nearly in tears from standing up for the entire ride this morning. But I couldn’t imagine driving from Concord to San Francisco every day. Good golly, no. It’s not only cheaper but much better for the environment to have those hundreds of people ride in the same train than in hundreds of individual cars.

I’m not a fan of this HSR network, but that’s because I believe that our terrain isn’t suited for it and it’ll disrupt too many farms on its way to the real destinations of LA and San Diego.

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