Amtrak delays again start-up of high-speed trains

June 21, 2000|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

Amtrak is again delaying the start of its high-speed Acela trains between Boston and Washington after several key bolts in the carriage of locomotives were found to be loose or missing.

The Acela start-up, planned for July, has been postponed until at least August, officials said yesterday.

"Until we have more information, we're not going to fix a date," said Amtrak spokeswoman Lynn Bowersox. "August is the timetable as best we know it."

The much-anticipated trains will glide at 150 mph and cut travel time between Baltimore and New York to two hours - shaving about 30 minutes off the current trip.

When Amtrak unveiled plans for its "bullet train" in March of last year, it expected to have the trains running by October. But the project has been troubled by equipment problems. In September, Acela was delayed after tests revealed excessive wheel wear.

A week ago, inspectors discovered problems with bolts that secure the locomotive gearbox to its undercarriage. Amtrak agreed to suspend testing of the trains while it searched for a solution

Bowersox said it appears the solution might be as simple as a longer bolt.

"If the solution we've identified is the right one, we hope to resume testing next week," she said.

The bolt problem means a minimum delay of two weeks.

Amtrak is investigating hundreds of changes contractors made to a $600 million rail electrification plan along the Northeast corridor that is required for the Acela service.

The FBI and U.S. attorney in Connecticut are assisting with the investigation, but it is not expected to add further delays.

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