The history of Amtrak’s new Acela trains, which will likely be delayed beyond their 2021 estimated date

The first Amtrak train that will be

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The first Amtrak train that will be
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Amtrak
  • Amtrak’s Acela 21 project aims to have new trainsets running between Boston and Washington D.C. by 2021.
  • Earlier this week, Amtrak showed off the exteriors of the first of its new trains.
  • A new report from the railroad’s inspector general predicted that management weaknesses could cause delays in the new trains’ rollout beyond the expected date.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amtrak’s new Acela trainsets will be sleek, with lower energy usage and more inviting interiors

But none of that matters if passengers can’t ride them.

New trains from the $2.1 billion Acela 21 project are supposed to be up and running by 2021, but a new report from the railroad’s inspector general found they’re at “significant risk” of delays. These delays could have a ripple effect on the rest of Amtrak, affecting its busiest route and causing it to cut service.

Here’s everything that’s been happening with the now-troubled project since it was first announced in 2016:


In 2016, then-Vice President Joe Biden announced a $2.45 billion federal loan for Amtrak to improve transportation in the Northeast Corridor.

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Joe Biden at the Wilmington Amtrak Station.
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Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The loan was the largest ever by the Department of Transportation, and is intended for buying new trains, upgrading tracks, and making platform improvements in the Northeast corridor.

Amtrak and Biden announced the loan in the Wilmington, Delaware station named for Biden, who was a frequent Amtrak rider while in the Senate.

“You can’t make this country work without rail … This is a really, really sound investment, Biden said.


At this point, Biden and Amtrak officials acknowledged that the system was already facing a backlog of $7 billion in maintenance.

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An Amtrak Acela train arrives at New York’s Penn Station.
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Thomson Reuters

The Acela, which travels in the northeast between Washington D.C. and Boston, is the focus of this improvement project. New Acela train sets are supposed to start transporting passengers in 2021 as part of the Acela 21 project.

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Amtrak’s high speed Acela at Washington’s Union Station
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REUTERS/ Larry Downing

In September, Amtrak showed off mock-ups of the interiors of the new trains.

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Interior of new Acela.
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Amtrak

Source: Business Insider


Cafe cars were upgraded…

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Interior of new Acela.
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Amtrak

…with new features like a digital menu board.

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Interior of new Acela.
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Amtrak

Some construction for the $2.1 billion new trains took place in Illinois at LB Steel LLC.

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Acela construction at LB Steel LLC.
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The new trains are scheduled to begin service in 2021…

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Acela construction at LB Steel LLC.
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

…replacing the decades-old trains that currently run on the Acela service.

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Acela construction at LB Steel LLC.
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The new high-speed trains can travel up to 160 mph, which is faster than the current trainsets can reach.

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Acela construction at LB Steel LLC.
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Amtrak recently added a non-stop option to the route, and Amtrak’s chief marketing said that when the new fleet is introduced, Amtrak might consider incorporating other special trips into service.

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Acela construction at LB Steel LLC.
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

But, a new report shows things might not be running so smoothly.

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Acela construction at LB Steel LLC.
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Management issues pose a “significant risk” to the Acela 21 project continuing on time, according to a report from the railroad’s inspector general.

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Acela construction at LB Steel LLC.
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


For example, Amtrak took six months to fill a key management role for the new train-sets, according to the report.

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Acela construction at LB Steel LLC.
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


“Foremost is that project delays have eliminated any cushion in the schedule, and multiple indicators point to further delays beyond the planned service launch in 2021,” the report said.

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Acela construction at LB Steel LLC.
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Source: Amtrak


Amtrak marketing officer Roger Harris said Amtrak is “fully committed to ensuring key leaders and contributors have the capacity and resources necessary to achieve the program goals and deliverables” in response to the report.

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Acela construction at LB Steel LLC.
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


If Amtrak faces more delays, it could be forced to cut service in the Northeast Corridor.

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Acela construction at LB Steel LLC.
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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

This week, Amtrak showed off the exteriors of its new train — known as the Avelia Liberty — in a video of the first built example on Wednesday.

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Amtrak Acela in Hornell, NY.
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Amtrak

Source: Business Insider


The set was constructed in Hornell, New York, south of Rochester, New York, by Amtrak contractor Alstom, as will the rest of the order.

The first Amtrak train that will be

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Amtrak Acela in Hornell, NY.
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Amtrak

This train, the first of the 28 that will eventually be built, will be moved Pueblo, Colorado in February for more testing.

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Amtrak Acela in Hornell, NY.
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Amtrak

With billions invested in other infrastructure updates, including upgrading old tunnels and constructing new ones, the Amtrak Acela 21’s future remains uncertain.

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Amtrak Acela in Hornell, NY.
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Amtrak