Canadian Consulting Engineer

Problems on high-speed train draw response from Bombardier

August 15, 2002
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Bombardier Transportation, the giant Quebec engineering manufacturing company, had to respond to media criticism ab...

Bombardier Transportation, the giant Quebec engineering manufacturing company, had to respond to media criticism about problems with a high-speed train it had sold to Amtrak in the United States. The problems were occurring on a train known as the Acela Express which runs between Boston, New York and Washington.
On August 6 the company issued a press release “to set the record straight” on four points. Following is an extract of Bombardier’s statement:

“To the statement that the trains are “vastly overpowered,” it should be noted that this is a direct result of the customer’s specifications. In fact during negotiations leading up to the contract, Bombardier had repeatedly suggested that one power car per trainset was sufficient but the customer’s administration at the time insisted on two power cars. – The reported freeze-up of the braking system is attributable to the customer’s request for a new design. Throughout the project, Bombardier recommended a different brake system than the one the customer insisted upon. Bombardier repeatedly warned Amtrak, both before and after the contract was awarded, that its desired system is more prone to revert to its fail-safe conditions because of its increased complexity. At the time, the customer nevertheless insisted on the new design. It is noteworthy that none of the failures are safety related. – The reported problem with the toilet door latches arose from the customer’s insistence on a new sophisticated door design. Early on, Bombardier clearly indicated to the customer that this new design was comprised of mechanisms that would either lock the door in the open position, or would prevent passengers from opening the door. The customer nonetheless insisted on this new design. – Amtrak instructed Bombardier to deliver trainsets even though Amtrak knew that insufficient time was available to incorporate numerous requirement changes.
Bombardier, in cooperation with the customer, is fully committed to the performance of the Acela trainsets and is sparing no effort to ensure the successful implementation of this new high-speed technology in North America. Passengers are delighted with these trains. It is indeed well recognized that Amtrak’s ridership on the Boston-New-York-Washington corridor has increased significantly and steadily since the introduction of the Acela Express service. According to the National Association of Railway Passengers, ridership is up 23%, resulting in a 44% growth in revenues in the twelve-month period ending May 2002. Acela is now the benchmark for high-speed rail technology and service in North America with the commercial success to match.”


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