Amtrak train at the station.

Amtrak adds Northeast Regional frequencies as it confirms rebound


While most major airlines have bounced back to — and even beyond — their pre-Covid schedules, rail operators have generally lagged behind. But Amtrak on Monday announced a modest increase in its bustling Northeast Regional service, adding an additional eight trains throughout the week representing a 20% weekday service increase and 10% boost on Sundays. Amtrak says the change adds an additional capacity of more than 1 million seats per week to the Northeast Regional service.

The additional departures are focused primarily on the key corridor between Washington, D.C. and New York City. Four additional weekday and two weekend roundtrip departures will operate on the route, while an additional weekday morning departure will operate from Philadelphia to New York. Only one additional departure will venture north of New York to Boston on weekends, but only going as far south as Philadelphia.

The latest round of service increases puts Amtrak’s schedule in an even rosier position than it was pre-Covid. Indeed, these schedules exceed pre-Covid frequencies, Amtrak confirms to Runway Girl Network.

Amtrak bar graph showing rider and revenue increases.

Image: Amtrak

Ridership in fiscal year 2023 exceeded pre-covid levels, despite operating fewer daily departures. Amtrak was hamstrung by a high proportion of rolling stock it was unable to reactivate after being stored during the pandemic, though a recent push to reactivate stored equipment has borne fruit.

Amtrak says the additional departures are also enabled by a recent change to the seating layout on board its Northeast Regional trains. Amtrak’s Amfleet and Acela trainsets have seats capable of being flipped to face the direction of travel. However, the operator announced that as of this month all Northeast Regional trains will operate with fixed forward and backward seating. Acela will do the same later this year. Amtrak says this will reduce the time needed to turn trains at their destination, allowing it to squeeze in a few extra daily departures. Future Airo and new Acela trainsets will also feature this seating layout.


Brightline Reveals New Station Location

In other notable rail developments in the United States, Florida intercity railroad operator Brightline has announced the location of a new infill station along its Miami to Orlando route, 40 miles north of West Palm Beach in Marin County’s City of Stuart. Brightline says Stuart was selected due to its location along the route. The city’s local attractions make it a destination for travelers.

Ironically, Marin County was an outspoken opponent of the original Brightline project, suing to block construction of the route. A lawsuit filed by the County was settled in 2018, paving the way not just for the entire route but for a future station to be built.

Brightline expects the new station to open in the second half of 2026.

Metra (Battery) Electric

Metra, Chicago’s commuter rail system, has approved a contract to buy eight two-car battery-powered FLIRT trainsets from Swiss manufacturer Stadler Rail. The trainsets will undergo final assembly at Stadler’s Salt Lake City, Utah plant and the first deliveries are expected in 2027-2028.

A rendering of the new battery-powered electric trains for Metra

Image: Metra

Metra’s existing network includes some fully electrified lines, though the bulk of its network relies on aging diesel powered locomotive engines. Metra would be among the first in the United States to deploy a battery-powered replacement for diesel operations. The contract has provisions to expand the scope to include eight additional trainsets and up to 32 trailer cars.

The battery-powered trainsets will operate on a 16.4 mile stretch of Metra’s Rock Island Line, and are expected to have a range of 45 to 60 miles. Charging time, presumably taking place at either end of the line, is expected to take the charge from 20 to 80 percent in 20 to 30 minutes. The new trains will offer enhanced passengers amenities including USB ports, bike racks, and lavatories in the future trailer cars.

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