Amtrak gives a tour of a mockup of the new Acela trains it will be rolling out in 2021.
Passengers of Amtrak’s Acela express trains can look forward to more room and comfort, better Wi-Fi, digital signage and other amenities on a $2.5 billion new generation of the high-speed trains that will be introduced beginning in 2021.
The interior upgrades, which also will include new tray tables, cafe cars and in-seat food service, are designed to further improve an already popular service, said Caroline N. Decker, vice president of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Service Line, who led media tours of a set of mock train cars Tuesday.
“We definitely want to do everything we can to build on that and provide an even better service,” Decker said. “Better food, better Wi-Fi, better overall information. That’s another area where we need to do a better job: providing information on trip time, arrival time, delays.”
The 28 new trains, which fully replace the existing fleet by the end of 2022, will have one-third more passenger seats — and nobody has to sit in the middle. The Acela cars will feature a two-by-two seat configuration, and the first-class Acela cars will have rows of two seats on one side and a row of single seats on the other. The new train cars include Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant aisles and bathrooms, and safer connections between train cars.
Comfortable, winged headrests wrap around the back and sides of passengers’ heads, allowing them to nap without worrying about their heads accidentally landing on their neighbor’s shoulder. Reading lights on the headrests will provide more direct light designed to be less disturbing to other passengers. Dual tray tables will offer two options: a short tray with a cup holder and a few inches of space for a book or newspaper, and the full fold-out for meals, laptops and other uses.
The cafe cars will add self-service stations to the current configuration. First-class tickets will come with in-seat meal service, depending on the time of day, and a snack cart will be offered to other Acela passengers — both designed to eliminate the concern about leaving belongings in their seats unattended.
An open overhead storage shelf, replacing the current enclosed storage containers, will allow for more convenient storage, Decker said.
Electrical outlets in the new cars have been moved from the wall of the train to underneath the seats, providing better access for passengers in the aisle seats.
An advanced seat reservation system, using small digital screens along the top of the aisle, will address a common complaint about the current method of open seating and allow passengers to plan their travel together, Decker said.
Larger digital displays inside the cars will show upcoming destinations, train speed, estimated time of arrival and other information, she said.
“The digital experience will surpass anyone’s expectations,” she said.
The train overhaul and other improvements were paid for by a federal Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing loan backed by Northeast Corridor revenues. About 250 vendors supplied the seats, digital displays and other parts for the interior and exterior of the trains, which are being built by the French train manufacturer Alstom in Hornell, New York.