In northern Europe, the concept of flygskam—“flight shame” in Swedish—gained momentum in 2019, as more people opted for trains over planes in the name of sustainability. But in the United States, many American travelers who would like to reduce their carbon footprint by ditching air travel have fewer options and an aging Amtrak system.
That’s about to change next year—at least for people who live along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. The new Acela Express Fleet—which is currently being tested and set to enter service in 2023—is being produced to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent per passenger, Amtrak said in a statement. The new efficiencies are all thanks to a new lightweight design, the Wall Street Journal reported.
While the next-generation high-speed Acela trains were supposed to enter into service in 2021, they are currently still being manufactured at the Alstom factory in Hornell, New York. Despite the delays, Amtrak recently shared a sneak peek of the new interiors.
The trains will feature recycled leather seats (blue in business class and red in first class) as well as a new sustainable food and beverage program. While details are scarce on how the food and drinks will be more ecofriendly, Amtrak says there will be more craft beer offerings.
In addition to these ecoconscious initiatives, the new Acela fleet will also include a few other upgrades to make train travel more appealing. Getting work done will be easier with faster Wi-Fi systems, along with USB ports and reading lights at each seat. There will also be more legroom, as well as larger bathrooms and storage compartments for luggage.
The new trains—which will operate at speeds of up to 160 mph, compared to 150 mph for the current fleet—will also have room for 386 passengers, an increase of 27 percent over its present 304-passenger capacity, which means that more people will be able to take advantage of train travel once these come online.
The Northeast Corridor is Amtrak’s only high-speed route in the United States, but a few other private rail companies have plans to bring fast trains to places such as Texas, Florida, and between Las Vegas and Southern California.
This article originally appeared online in June 2019; it was updated in September 2019, October 2020, and again on April 4, 2022, to include current information.