Wilmington (United States) (AFP) - US rail operator Amtrak on Friday awarded a $2.0 billion (1.8 billion euros) deal to French manufacturer Alstom to supply new trains for its key Acela service between Washington, New York and Boston.
The landmark deal for 28 new passenger trains will boost Amtrak's speed and capacity along its most heavily used and profitable route, with more than 3.5 million passengers a year, from 2021.
The trains will carry more than 400 passengers, about one-third more than the existing Acela northeastern corridor express service, with a maximum speed of 300 kilometers per hour (180 miles per hour), though normal speeds will hover near 260 kilometers an hour.
In the deal Alstom, which makes France's famed TGV trains, agreed to manufacture most of the new equipment for Amtrak, dubbed its Avelia Liberty line, at its plant in Hornell, New York.
The new trains, which will also serve Baltimore, Philadelphia and other key cities on the 730 kilometer (450 mile) route, will be able to run faster than current trains in part due to the use of Alstom's Tiltronix system allowing the trains to lean more deeply into curves, avoiding sharp slowdowns.
"Amtrak is taking the necessary actions to keep our customers, the Northeast region and the American economy moving forward," said Amtrak president and chief executive Joe Boardman.
"These trainsets and the modernization and improvement of infrastructure will provide our customers with the mobility and experience of the future," he said.
US Vice President Joe Biden, a strong advocate of high speed rail, said at a ceremony that strengthening the Acela service is crucial as it serves one of the most densely populated and economically important regions of the country.
"This area from Boston to Washington is home to one out of every seven Americans," he said, calling the northeast corridor "fundamentally important" to the economy.
Amtrak and Alstom said prototypes for the new trainsets will be ready in 2019, and enter commercial service two years later.
The revamp of the Acela fleet will also be matched by upgrades to stations and the rail line, Amtrak said.
Alstom's senior vice president for North America, Jerome Wallut, called the new trains the "most advanced, reliable and safest" in the world.
The trains will consume significantly less energy than those already in existence, according to the company, and emit far less pollutants per passenger than aircraft.
"Avelia Liberty will not only provide premium passenger experience but will also provide greater energy efficiency and lower lifecycle costs," Wallut said.