Around the world, railway systems are seeing a renaissance: New high-speed train routes are coming to Europe, faster trains are in the works in Japan, and Indonesia will soon see its first high-speed train.
Not to be left out, the United States’ passenger railway line, Amtrak, recently announced that it’s planning to replace its existing long-distance train cars with newer iterations, which will be rolled out on 14 overnight routes, including the popular California Zephyr, which connects Chicago and San Francisco; Coast Starlight between Seattle and Los Angeles; Crescent from New York to New Orleans; Empire Builder from Chicago to Portland; and Southwest Chief, which runs between Chicago and Los Angeles.
“Purchasing new long-distance train cars will allow Amtrak to upgrade and modernize the iconic and vital overnight services that link our nation’s major regions,” Amtrak board chair Tony Coscia said in a statement. “We are looking for new trains that improve safety, reliability, accessibility, and efficiency while offering the features our customers believe are most important to modernizing overnight train travel for the 21st century.”
Amtrak is considering ideas from as many as 10 manufacturers. According to a statement, the railroad company is also exploring what amenities can be added to elevate the customer experience on the long-haul trains. Currently, overnight trains have options ranging from reclining coach seats, to roommettes (two seats that transform into bunk beds at night with a picture window), to bedrooms (with a sofa and separate chair that turn into bunk beds, a picture window, and an in-room restroom and shower).
There’s no word yet on when the new cars will come into service and replace the now 44-year-old train cars. Amtrak expects that current long-haul rail cars will “approach the ends of its service life after the next decade.”
Amtrak has gotten a recent boost to fund this project from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1 trillion infrastructure bill enacted by Congress and the Biden administration in November 2021 to revamp the nation’s transportation systems. Of that, $66 billion was earmarked for Amtrak, making it the most significant federal investment in the railway company since its 1971 founding.
This is just one of Amtrak’s many projects to modernize its aging system. Its new high-speed Acela Express Fleet, which will connect Boston and Washington, D.C., is expected to enter service sometime this year. And in December, Amtrak shared a first look at its new fleet of short-haul trains, known as the Amtrak Airo, which will roll out starting in 2026 and will largely operate on the East Coast. Some upgrades in the Airo trains include individual outlets, USB ports, large panoramic windows, and better Wi-Fi. They’ll also travel at speeds up to 125 miles per hour (up from the average of 80 miles per hour).