Amtrak To Add More Than 100 Locomotives

The Amtrak passenger rail service will buy more than 100 locomotives, along with hundreds of new passenger cars, in what it is billing as a "major equipment purchase."

Amtrak included the purchase plans in a 2010 outlook statement, but gave no details about how much money it will spend on the equipment. The agency said it will later "announce a comprehensive and detailed plan to replace and expand its fleet."

It also did not say which suppliers would win the orders, but said the purchase "will support American rail manufacturing industries and create jobs in the U.S." Passenger train engines are much different from the heavier locomotives needed for freight service, but some manufacturers are trying to supply both industries.

Separately, Amtrak said it is committed to completing a "positive train control" system by the end of 2012, which is three years ahead of a congressional deadline.

Railroads are mandated to put the highly automated systems in place on passenger lines, on freight lines that share track with passenger service and on tracks that carry certain types of hazardous materials. PTC systems can let distant dispatchers or automatic controls take over a locomotive to prevent trains from colliding.

Amtrak said it will install PTC "on sections of Amtrak-owned tracks not already equipped" with it, and that "a significant amount of design, engineering, and some installation work will occur this year to advance the project." Freight railroads are also moving quickly to develop systems they can deploy, and are expected to spend heavily on PTC projects this year.

Amtrak's other plans for the coming year include spending $442 million on an engineering program that includes installing more than 112,000 concrete crossties and over 49,000 wooden ties on the Northeast Corridor, and repair to some bridges in Michigan, Maryland, New York and New Jersey.

- John D. Boyd, The Journal of Commerce Online.