- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002

Amtrak and the manufacturers of the Acela Express trains agreed late Thursday on a way to temporarily fix the high-speed trains, which were pulled from service this week when cracks were found in their suspension systems.

Maintenance workers discovered cracks in the brackets of several Acela Express trains this week. The brackets are part of a shock-absorber system to reduce side-to-side movement.

Bombardier Inc. and Alstom Ltd., the manufacturers, have agreed to replace the brackets with the deepest cracks with thicker brackets. In other cases, the manufacturers will grind out "superficial cracks" in the brackets, an Amtrak official said.

"This is considered a temporary fix," said Cliff Black, director of special projects. He could not say how much the remedy will cost, or when a permanent fix will be available.

Mechanics began the temporary repairs yesterday at Amtrak maintenance shops in Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Amtrak operates 18 Acela Express trains, which travel at 150 mph. The shutdown of the Acela Express service reduced Amtrak's Northeast Corridor service by about one-fourth.

This weekend, Amtrak will offer 92 departures between Washington and New York to accommodate passengers affected by the suspension of Acela Express service. Amtrak usually offers 116 trains on the weekends.

On Monday, service will resume with Metroliners departing New York and Washington every hour during the peak travel times of early morning and late afternoon, Mr. Black said. This will be an increase from nine to 15 in the number of Metroliners that Amtrak usually operates on weekdays.

Amtrak will offer passengers who have previously paid Acela Express fares and who travel instead on Metroliners or other train service a credit for the difference between the fares.

Amtrak has not determined when Acela Express will resume. "At some point, we are hopeful that we can get moving again with at least piecemeal service," Mr. Black said.

Some trains are overcrowded because of the suspension of Acela Express service, Mr. Black said. "There are fewer trains, and service is moving a little slower than usual, but things are moving reasonably well, all things considered," he said.

Amtrak pulled the first 13 Acela Express trains from service Tuesday after maintenance workers discovered the cracks. The remaining five trains were pulled Thursday when an inspection turned up cracks in three more trains.

Amtrak operates 15 of the high-speed trains on typical weekdays, carrying about 10,000 passengers. A one-way fare from Washington to New York costs $157.

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