Happening Now

Superliner Replacement Process Kicks Off

January 19, 2023

by Jim Mathews / President & CEO

Yes, Virginia (and everywhere else), it's finally happening: Amtrak has kicked off the process of replacing bi-level Superliner equipment in long-distance service nationwide, issuing a request-for-information (RFI) to industry last month with a goal of getting a contracted procurement underway before the end of the year.

The money is coming from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (previously known as the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act) which your professional staff worked hard to help craft alongside House and Senate transportation staff and other transportation experts.

When I spoke with Amtrak Long Distance VP Larry Chestler last week in advance of the announcement, he told me the objective is to get answers in hand from industry before the end of March. All options are on the table, both bi-level and single-level. The answer will come from what industry is able to develop and support.

The RFI was brief, only a few pages, designed to elicit ideas from industry about what is possible and desirable in a future fleet expected to serve for decades.Amtrak asked industry to address "the scope of Amtrak’s overnight train fleet—including Superliner I & II, Viewliner I & II and Amfleet II railcars."

This is long, long overdue, and an issue I pressed hard during my 2019 testimony before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee about the desperate need to replace what I described as "a rolling museum" of sub-standard equipment. During that testimony, I showed the assembled lawmakers a small bag of ad hoc repair kit parts which seasoned passengers bring along on their Amtrak trips -- things like velcro, shims, and duct tape.

Despite what you might have read in the popular press, Amtrak's internal design managers learned a lot of lessons from the first Venture car procurement, and have done a really excellent job in listening to real passengers needs and desires in developing interior features and finishes in the new Airo trainsets which Siemens is now building. Some of those design engineers told me they'd be excited to get the chance to work on a Superliner replacement program, especially since there's now money to do it right.

I couldn't agree more. Let's get it done!