January 20, 2023 - TRA Newswire / RailPassengers.org -

Amtrak expects to get responses from as many as 10 manufacturers by the end of March as it kicked off the process of replacing bi-level Superliner equipment for its national network service. 

The Request For Information (RFI) will give executives at Amtrak a sense of what is available in the marketplace so that the railroad can formalize a proposal for replacement trains. Word is that a contracted procurement is to get underway before the end of 2023. 

Funding for new equipment to replace the 40-year old trains comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (IIJA). All options are on the table and Amtrak will look at single-level and bi-level equipment. Amtrak asked industry to address "the scope of Amtrak’s overnight train fleet—including Superliner I & II, Viewliner I & II and Amfleet II railcars."

In a news release, Amtrak Chair Tony Coscia said "We are looking for new trains that improve safety, reliability, accessibility and efficiency while offering the features our customers believe are most important to modernizing overnight train travel for the 21st century."  

New, more modern trains, would replace the existing equipment on the Texas Eagle, Sunset Limited and the Oklahoma/Texas DOT partnered Heartland Flyer in the Lone Star state. 

"We believe in the future of our long-distance service and we look forward to enhancing the customer experience across the Amtrak network, and further supporting U.S. manufacturing," according to Coscia. "This represents the final phase in our long-term plan to replace our trains — beginning with new Acela equipment and continuing with the Amtrak Airo™ trains announced last month." 

Much of the current fleet will be at the end of its service life in the next decade. The bulk of the cars, including coaches, sleepers, diners and lounges have been in service from the late 1970's and the 1980's.

Jim Mathews, President/CEO of DC-based Rail Passengers Association commented that "This is long, long overdue, and an issue I pressed hard during my 2019 testimony before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee about the desperate need to replace what I described as "a rolling museum" of sub-standard equipment. During that testimony, I showed the assembled lawmakers a small bag of ad hoc repair kit parts which seasoned passengers bring along on their Amtrak trips -- things like velcro, shims, and duct tape."

"Despite what you might have read in the popular press, Amtrak's internal design managers learned a lot of lessons from the first Venture car procurement, and have done a really excellent job in listening to real passengers' needs and desires in developing interior features and finishes in the new Airo trainsets which Siemens is now building," according to Mathews. 

Amtrak continues to research design elements and customer amenities for the trains.