- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 18, 2004

Amtrak and the manufacturers of its high-speed Acela Express trains have resolved their legal dispute in an out-of-court settlement.

The consortium that made the trains will get $42.5 million to pay for continuing service work on the 20 train sets it has delivered to Amtrak. The manufacturer agreed to waive the rest of the $70 million it claims is due.

The trains were made by a consortium of Bombardier of North America and Alstom Ltd. of France.

Bombardier sued in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in November 2001 because of cost overruns the consortium says Amtrak caused by demanding numerous design changes.

Bombardier also said Amtrak misrepresented the ability of Northeast Corridor tracks to handle high-speed rail service.

Amtrak responded by suing Bombardier for “extraordinary delays and pervasive failures.” The “failures” included cracks in the suspension system that shut down much of the Acela Express service in 2002 until sturdier equipment was installed.

Bombardier said the cracks resulted from Amtrak’s design changes that included carrying loads too heavy for the suspension system, then demanding early delivery before the suspension system could be fitted with stronger support equipment.

The trains operate along the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston.

When the dispute started, Amtrak withheld $70 million owed to Bombardier.

“Instead of continuing to spend unnecessary time and money on costly and attention-diverting litigation, the full focus of our efforts will now be on improving the performance of Acela Express and delivering the best service we know how for the passengers who enjoy and depend on it,” Amtrak President David Gunn said in a statement.

Bombardier originally agreed to do maintenance work on the Acela Express trains until 2013. Under the settlement, Bombardier will turn over maintenance responsibility to Amtrak in 2006.

“The end of this litigation clears another obstacle from the road to true reform of our passenger rail system,” Federal Railroad Administrator Alan Rutter said in a statement.

Bombardier said in a statement it was satisfied with the agreement.

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