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Amtrak unveils new electric locomotive

Amtrak is in the final phase of testing its newest locomotives – and Wednesday offered Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware) and others a sneak peak at its Wilmington Maintenance Facility.

The new Cities Sprinter electric locomotive, designed by Siemens, and is expected to be faster, more reliable, and more efficient than the locomotives it’s replacing in the Northeast and Keystone corridors. The Cities Sprinter also features numerous safety improvements, as well as regenerative braking which can feed up to 100 percent of the power generated during braking back into the electric grid, helping to save over $300 million dollars in electricity over 20 years.

Carper, a long time railway transportation advocate and former Amtrak board member, says that these trains will not only benefit rail passengers but the state of Delaware as well.

“This means not only better train service, faster train service, more reliable train service, but we are going to be maintaining these locomotives right here in Wilmington,” said Carper.

Amtrak ordered 70 Cities Sprinters in 2010 for $466 million. Carper says the upgrades make the new locomotive worth the cost.

“Just in terms of reliability, safety, generating the electricity to help buy down the electricity costs of these, there is a much better return on investment,” said Carper. “A much faster return on investment than I certainly imagined.”

Amtrak’s Vice President of Northeast Corridor Investment and Development Stephen Gardner adds that the cost cutting measures won’t immediately translate into lower fare prices for passengers, but passengers will benefit.

“They do have higher acceleration and a little better deceleration so we’ll see if we are able to save a little time, but the main thing we are purchasing here is a very reliable, easy to maintain locomotive,” said Gardner. “From a passenger perspective they should be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip with confidence that they will get there on schedule.”

In compliance with the “Buy America” Act regulated by the Federal Transportation Agency, the locomotives are being built in Sacramento, California with major components sourced from suppliers in 61 cities from 23 states.

The first Cities Sprinters will enter the fleet this fall, replacing locomotives that have been in service between 25 to 35 years. All 70 Cities Sprinters will be in service in 2016.