- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

The maker of the popular but embattled Amtrak Acela Express trains introduced a high-speed train powered by jet engine yesterday.
Hailing the new train as "better, faster and sooner," officials from Bombardier Transportation of Montreal said the new JetTrain will be the springboard for creating a vast high-speed rail network in North America.
The train's locomotive was on display yesterday at Union Station. It has a shell similar to that of the Acela trains in use, weighs about 20 percent less than diesel locomotives and is capable of consistent speeds of more than 150 miles per hour. The $25 million locomotives will also accelerate twice as fast, the company said.
The 5,000-horsepower Pratt & Whitney jet engine weighs 1,200 pounds, or 38,000 pounds less than a traditional diesel engine. Other changes were made in the train design to reduce weight, which is the main cause of track wear and tear. A reduction in weight translates to less track repair and lower maintenance costs, officials said.
"What we worked on at every juncture was making it as light as possible," said Lecia Stewart, Bombardier's vice president for high-speed rail in North America.
Delivering a full train would take 24 months once ordered, the company said. Bombardier has not sold nor produced a full jet-powered train set.
The introduction of the train comes after about five years of discussion and testing with the Federal Railroad Administration. The administration and Bombardier each paid about $13 million to develop a turbine-powered locomotive as part of the administration's Next Generation High-Speed Rail Program.
The main goal of the program has been to develop a way to kick-start the development of high-speed rail to areas of the country not served by electrified tracks. Using locomotives powered by jet engines on current tracks would cost 25 percent to 30 percent less than building electrified track networks and putting trains on them, Bombardier and the administration said.
"The costs of electrification are largely prohibitive," administration spokesman Warren Flateau said.
Amtrak is expected to be a customer, but the rail service has faced financial problems and is battling Congress for more than $1 billion in funding. Bombardier and Amtrak have had a strained relationship since delays in delivery of the Acela trains and ensuing technical problems.
Amtrak pulled the majority of its high-speed Acela Express fleet in August after discovering small cracks in the suspension systems of more than half the trains, which were built by Bombardier. Amtrak did not return calls yesterday.
Bombardier President and Chief Operating Officer Pierre Lortie said the Acela problem has been solved and would not recur on the JetTrains.
"It was an unfortunate technical issue, but to a large extent I think it's behind us," he said.
Mr. Lortie said the company would look at Amtrak as well as other local and freight clients. He referred specifically to Florida, where voters passed a constitutional amendment requiring a high-speed rail network by 2003.
The JetTrains are designed to hasten the adoption of high-speed passenger rail. It's not clear whether Bombardier's efforts to market the trains to freight-train companies will work.
"Because we don't operate passenger trains, I can't imagine we'd have a use for it," said Union Pacific spokesman John Bromley.
A new Bombardier train linking parts of New York to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York crashed and killed its operator during a test run in September. The official cause of the accident is not clear, but the National Transportation Safety Board said weights used to simulate passengers had not been secured and that there was no evidence of the train malfunctioning. The NTSB is still investigating.


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