German train eyed by Amtrak High-speed test due on Metroliner route

May 11, 1993|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Staff Writer

In an effort to select trains for its new high-speed service in the Northeast corridor, Amtrak will soon begin testing a German passenger train, which will be available in October on a trial basis on its Metroliner service.

The InterCityExpress (ICE) is designed to travel in excess of 150 mph on straight track and could shave five minutes off the two hours and 20 minutes it took the Swedish X-2000 to make its recent trial runs between Washington and New York.

Demonstration of the German-built ICE is the next step in Amtrak's $800 million plan to improve service between Washington and Boston to lure automobile and airline passengers.

Last week, Amtrak ended its four-month testing of the X-2000, a sleek, electric train, known as "the tilt" because of its ability to take curves 40 percent faster than normal trains by leaning as it makes turns.

Unlike the X-2000, the ICE does not tilt but accelerates quickly and can reach speeds in excess of 150 mph, compared with 135 mph for the X-2000.

The X-2000 knocked 20 minutes off the two hours and 35 minutes recorded by a regular Metroliner traveling between Washington and New York.

The ICE, which will be tested this summer without passengers, is expected to make the trip in two hours and 15 minutes once changes in the signal system are made, according to Sue Martin, spokeswoman for Amtrak in Washington.

According to Amtrak, the X-2000 will now go "on tour" in different states where curious passengers can board to view the train's interior, which is far more plush than the Amtrak cars passengers are accustomed to. The ICE train is also expected to visit train stations for similar inspections once its testing is completed.

Under terms of an agreement signed last week with Amtrak, Siemens Transportation Systems and AEG -- two international transportation companies with subsidiaries in the United States -- will lease the ICE from German Federal Railways (DB).

The companies will configure it for Northeast corridor operations, transport it to the United States in July and provide technical support for the tests and demonstrations.

The six-car unit is scheduled to arrive at the port of Baltimore in late July. The ICE, inaugurated in Germany in 1991, has been used by more than 20 million passengers, according to Amtrak.

Amtrak will use customer feedback about the ICE, as well as the X-2000, to decide what features to include in the design of high-speed trains that it plans to purchase to improve intercity passenger service.

Like the X-2000, the ICE features a modern, carpeted interior.

The ICE will offer video screens on the back of seats for movies and possibly a TV news channel. Food service will feature waiters serving more than the usual snack food.

Amtrak operates intercity passenger train service in 45 states and the District of Columbia over a 25,000-mile network.

Its services include Metroliner Service, the nation's only high-speed trains. They operate at 125 mph between Washington and New York.

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