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How Amtrak sabotages even minimal MBTA interest in electrifying the Providence Line

Alon Levy ponders the oddity that is the Providence Line: Completely set up for more reliable electric trains, yet the T - which owns the tracks from South Station to the Rhode Island line - continues to run diesel locomotives on it.

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Comments

I sense there's untapped pun potential where you see the word "sabotages" in the headline.

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(As usual.)

This is *mostly* a political issue. If the T and Amtrak could play nice, it's a win-win for both railroads (and their passengers). Yet, the T won't stand up for itself, and as Alon points out, Amtrak doesn't seem to care about speed or reliability.

This is entirely inexplicable, and entirely predictable. (Yes, really.) What really needs to happen is for someone to lean on Amtrak and say "stop it." i.e. if both governors and four senators started calling Amtrak, some terms might magically change. The senators could also talk about slashing Amtrak's long-distance funding, but that's pretty divorced from the NEC. The T has a few cards, namely that they own the railroad north of Providence and could kick Amtrak off. This would be a nuclear option, but Amtrak would probably have more to lose (losing the lucrative Boston-New York market, and having nowhere to service trains north of Sunnyside Yard in New York). But it shouldn't come to that. With a little vision, and a little pushing, everyone should get better service.

When Republicans say "look, government doesn't work" (despite Amtrak being quasi-governmental) this is why.

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I don't know. This Amtrak attack sounds like sour grapes to me.

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There's a couple of weird things in this.

One is the notion that electric locomotives would be a bad idea because they would give an inferior performance boost compared to EMUs. The author doesn't appear to weigh the cost benefit/impact. They've got perfectly good, well... mostly adequate... passenger coaches now. Get some improvement by changing the locomotives. Crucial question - what's a reasonable price for an electric locomotive compared to one 6 to 8 car set of EMUs? You don't have to buy it all at once - ramp up gradually.

The other is the notion that EMUs require high-level platforms. Bull****! There are plenty of places (in other systems) where EMUs stop at low-level platforms - not an insurmountable problem here. They would lose a bit of the time savings - low level means steps, and two doors per side of a coach instead of three or four per side. Conductors would have to do more work, occasionally opening & closing steps

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"The MBTA sought to lease electric locomotives from Amtrak, which uses them on its own trains; Amtrak quoted an unreasonably high monthly price designed to get the MBTA to lose interest."

Cite? And why is Amtrak the only source of leased electric locomotives?

"The MBTA’s reasoning is that EMUs require high platforms, which cost about $10 million per station"

Nope.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silverliner_V#/media/File:SEPTA_Silverline...
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1c/Langhorne_SEPTA_rail...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow_(railcar)#/media/File:NJ_Transit_Arrow_III_MU_1327.jpg

Though high-level platforms have a lot of other benefits, and are well worth the cost for a busy line.

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Why would SEPTA be leasing out the rolling stock they currently use? I mean, wouldn't that mean less train sets for, you know, their own commuters?

Conversely, Amtrak does have those HHP-8s lying around somewhere.

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I didn't say SEPTA should lease their rolling stock. I was pointing out that low-platform EMUs do exist.

http://www.highspeed-rail.org/Documents/Presentations/Amtrak_FleetStrate... says the HHP-8's averaged "12.6 days between unscheduled shop visits". No thanks.

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Why is Amtrak the only sources of leased stock. Then you referenced SEPTA’s stock. The inference was there.

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