Say Goodbye to the Acelas.

Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, has announced that Amtrak is dotting i’s and crossing t’s on an agreement that would allow the railroad to buy new trainsets that will replace the sort-of-high-speed Acelas on the Northeast Corridor. The deal, supposedly worth $2.5 billion, is expected to be OK’d by Amtrak’s board … and may already have been approved by the time I get this posted.
The contract will be going to Alstom, a French-owned company, but no matter … it’s good news for the central part of New York State because it’s likely to create 750 jobs there–more than half at the Alstom plant in Hornell, the rest in companies throughout the upstate area.
And how, you may ask, can Amtrak afford $2.5 billion for all these new trainsets when they’re still trying to save money by cutting out the free cranberry juice for sleeping car passengers? Excellent question. Answer: If everything goes as planned, the funding will come through the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program—known to its friends as RRIF—subject to approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation. With all those jobs in New York at stake, you can bet Senator Schumer is all over that like flies on a cow pie.
But what about me? Most of my train travel is across the country from the West Coast to wherever the twice-a-year NARP meetings are being held. Along with 4.7 million others who ride the long-distance trains, I’ll still be clanking along in a Superliner sleeping car that was very likely built 35 years ago and has probably been refurbished at least a couple of times since.
Notwithstanding this new deal, the fact remains that Amtrak is still trying to save money by not slipping a morning paper under the door of my roomette, and eliminating the three olives on a toothpick that used to garnish my Bloody Mary in the Pacific Parlour Car. It is long past time for the long-distance trains, and those of us who ride them, to get some serious consideration.