Amtrak plans to triple number of Acela trains heading north

Service part of move to phase out Metroliner

June 29, 2001|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

Amtrak will triple the number of weekday trains offering high-speed Acela Express service through Baltimore, giving travelers a faster option to New York and Boston.

The new service, which will begin July 9, is a continuation of Amtrak's goal to replace its Metroliner trains with the new Acela. In the six months since its launch Dec. 11, Acela took in $15.3 million in ticket sales to 130,486 passengers. Revenue was slightly higher than expected and ridership slightly lower than projections, according to Amtrak.

"Ridership is a little less than what we were hoping, but we're very pleased with the progress we're making," said Amtrak spokeswoman Karen Dunn.

The new service means six trains traveling in each direction weekdays between Washington and New York. The trains departing north from Baltimore will leave at 5:30 a.m., 7:35 a.m., 7:55 a.m., 2:34 p.m., 3:34 p.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays. On weekends, three northbound Acela Express trains will continue to depart from Baltimore at 1:34 p.m., 5:37 p.m. and 6:37 p.m.

Up to now, Acela Express northbound departures from Baltimore have been scheduled at 5:30 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. weekdays. The new trains will depart at hours considered more convenient.

"With additional trains at those hours, we think it will catch on," said Dunn. In addition, Amtrak is adding a roundtrip train between Boston and New York.

Amtrak is investing $2.8 billion in the high-speed service. On the Acela, a trip between Baltimore and New York, traveling at speeds of up to 135 mph, is 11 minutes faster than on the Metroliner. But north of New York, where Amtrak has made track improvements, the train can travel at up to 150 mph, allowing passengers to reach their destination 45 minutes faster.

To help bolster interest among business and leisure travelers during the summer, Amtrak is offering two-for-the-price-of-one weekend trips. It also has designated a cell-phone-free "quiet car" on nearly every train, a feature that has become popular on its Northeast Corridor routes.

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