- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The temporary suspension of Amtrak’s high-speed train service to New York is sparking an increase in passengers for airlines and bus lines.

Amtrak canceled service of all 20 of its Acela Express trains after cracks were discovered Friday in spokes of the train’s disc brake rotors. The trains, which debuted in 2000, travel back and forth between Washington, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston at a faster speed than Amtrak’s other trains.

No date has been set for when the trains will be operational again, said Clifford Black, Amtrak’s spokesman.

About two-thirds of the canceled Acela time slots are being filled by alternative train service, including the Metroliner and regional trains, according to Mr. Black.

Customers “are being diverted to other trains, many of which in the Washington-New York section of the Northeast Corridor are operating in the time slots of those Acela Express trains,” Mr. Black said.

Many Acela patrons are instead traveling by plane or bus to reach their destinations.

US Airways and Delta Air, which run shuttles from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to LaGuardia Airport in New York, say they have seen a spike in passengers since the weekend.

Delta had about a 10 percent increase in passengers between Washington and New York on Friday and Saturday compared with the previous Friday and Saturday, according to spokeswoman Benet Wilson.

Delta flies shuttles every hour from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. weekdays between Washington and New York, she said.

US Airways has “seen a significant build” in passengers for flights between Washington and New York as well, said spokeswoman Amy Kudwa.

Ms. Kudwa said she could not provide a specific number for the increase.

Both airlines said flights in and out of Boston’s Logan International Airport were near capacity, but it could have been due to Patriot’s Day, which took place over the weekend.

Yesterday, the company that builds the Acela had only 80 disc brakes in stock, not nearly enough to replace the 300 damaged brakes discovered on the fleet.

David Slack, a spokesman for Montreal-based Bombardier Inc., said he did not know how long it will take the company to supply Amtrak with enough brakes to put the Acela trains back in service.

Bus lines are also benefiting from Acela’s suspension.

Robert Schwarz, executive vice president of Peter Pan Bus Lines, reported increases in ridership between New York and Boston over the weekend because of Acela’s absence.

The company talked to people in Boston who said they usually travel on the Acela, he said.

Kim Plaskett, a spokeswoman for Greyhound Lines, said the company could not determine whether passenger increases are the result of Amtrak suspending Acela.

Still, many travelers who typically ride Acela are relying on Amtrak’s other trains.

Travelers waiting for a Metroliner train yesterday at Union Station lamented Acela’s suspension.

“I was bummed because I’m such a big fan of the Acela,” said Warren, N.J., resident Lisa Ippoliti, who was in the District for a business conference. “I really was not looking forward to going on one of the older trains.”

Ms. Ippoliti, who travels to Washington two or three times a year, said she typically chooses the Acela train because it is more comfortable to ride on and it cuts travel time.

“It’s all about time,” she said. “Any little amount of time you can save is worth the price.”

Amtrak’s regional service between Washington and New York can take as long as four hours, and Metroliner service takes about two hours and 45 minutes. The trip on Acela takes about 2 hours.

Customers who booked trips on Acela lines are able to get a refund for their tickets or use the tickets and save the stub to get the difference in cost refunded.

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