Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Thu Dec 14, 2017 1:21 am

Arlington wrote:Actually, New Brightline and Avelia are about as unlike CAF as you can get, and the contrast proves the case against somebody trying a custom hack of the Acelas.
If anything CAF is Exhibit #3, alongside the Acelas and MBTA's HSPs of why railroad operators should not be.playing vehicle designer (or redesigner). Modular/hot-swap V-IIs is an unproven (custom) design, and hence the manufacturer has no experience in building those designs (and no learning curve to learn/sustain/promote, since when the order ends, the product family ends)

Given the lucrative size of a large intercity/regional car order, would newcomers CRRC or Rotem take interest as well?
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby electricron » Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:19 am

The Siemens recent order of 137 railcars had a $371 million price tag, that calculates to $2.7 million per car. http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/20 ... ns-midwest

The recent purchase price for 14 used rail cars for California including refurbishment was $20 million, which calculates out to around $1.4 million per car. The actual purchase price for each car was $75 thousand. So over $1.2 million was spend on refurbishing each car.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amtrak_Ca ... _trainsets

Assuming scrap prices for the Acela cars are about the same, $75 thousand each, all 120 Acela cars could be purchased for $9 million. The price of the refurbishment will vary depending upon how many modifications are needed.
Assuming VIA would have to pay the same $2.7 million for a brand new single level car from Siemens or any other vendor, 120 new rail cars would have a price tag of $324 million. One could build many high platforms on the Canadian corridor train stations with the remaining $315 million and not do anything to the Acela train sets except remove their power units. VIA already owns 21 P42DC locomotives, enough to power these 20 train sets leaving one spare for backup. They will also have 53 older F40PH locomotives in their roster if needed.

High platforms would certainly make boarding and alighting trains easier and faster on their main corridor. They also wouldn't have to rebuild every platform at every station either.

Now I'm not going to state that's what the scrap prices for the Acela sets will be, just suggesting how low they could be. There's 40 power cars (2 per set) that would have to be accounted for. Whatever the eventual value will be will determine how good such a deal will be or not.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Backshophoss » Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:42 am

CRRC is an unproven builder in the US,has had some flops out on the World marketplace.
Rotem has product quality control issues,vendor supply issues,and delivery issues.(both the SEPTA SL-V,and the MBTA Bi-level orders)
Only the Denver RTD SL-V clone has been somewhat trouble free.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:10 am

David Benton wrote:
mtuandrew wrote:All of this said, I’d like to see Alstom propose a diesel-powered version of the Avelia Liberty for the Canada Corridor. The JetTrain wasn’t practical, but the idea of a North American version of the InterCity125 still has a lot of merit.

Plenty of BR Mark 3 cars been scrapped in Britain and Ireland, purely because Loco drawn trains are been phased out. Perfect for VIA. Same car as the hsr225.


VIA's not taking any more UK loading gauge stock after all the problems they had with Renaissance accessibility. The R's were nearly free, but they were chastened enough by all the lawsuits from their own version of the ADA to caveat emptor about the smaller UK-size stock that they scrapped all the extra R sleepers laying around rather than try to retrofit into extra cars.

How many times can their own management shout it from the mountaintops? They want their HEP2 + LRC replacement procurement for the Corridor done clean and spec-controlled with new stock. A thousand times over their CEO has been saying that's the business terms-of-engagement for having a Corridor at all. Another "yeah, but..." on this thread about retread Acelas or retread something-else doesn't magically hit the reset button on what they've been saying ad nauseam about what they will and WILL NOT do. They've already stated the alternative in a cash crunch: "We retire our old crap anyway whether the new replacement is full-funded or not because we can't go on like this anymore...so let's get this procurement funded." If we're going to keep dragging this canard out with yet more retread schemes it's got to be substantiated with some actual more recent evidence that VIA management is leaning in another direction...or else it's just idle fantasy.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby electricron » Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:40 am

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:VIA's not taking any more UK loading gauge stock after all the problems they had with Renaissance accessibility. The R's were nearly free, but they were chastened enough by all the lawsuits from their own version of the ADA to caveat emptor about the smaller UK-size stock that they scrapped all the extra R sleepers laying around rather than try to retrofit into extra cars.

How many times can their own management shout it from the mountaintops? They want their HEP2 + LRC replacement procurement for the Corridor done clean and spec-controlled with new stock. A thousand times over their CEO has been saying that's the business terms-of-engagement for having a Corridor at all. Another "yeah, but..." on this thread about retread Acelas or retread something-else doesn't magically hit the reset button on what they've been saying ad nauseam about what they will and WILL NOT do. They've already stated the alternative in a cash crunch: "We retire our old crap anyway whether the new replacement is full-funded or not because we can't go on like this anymore...so let's get this procurement funded." If we're going to keep dragging this canard out with yet more retread schemes it's got to be substantiated with some actual more recent evidence that VIA management is leaning in another direction...or else it's just idle fantasy.

While I believe VIA management would love to buy brand new rolling stock vs used, look at Canada's recent history of purchasing expensive objects lately. Marine Atlantic bought used ferries, Canadian Navy bought used replenishment ships, Canadian Air Force looking at buying used fighter jets, VIA buying used rail cars, etc. The national government hasn't bought anything brand new worth over a million each since they purchased the Kingston class coastal defense ships 20 years ago except for some air force transport aircraft.

So it is very easy to assume and propose they will continue to seek more cream-puff used equipment across the board. That doesn't mean they will never ever buy brand new expensive equipment in the future, but recent tendencies suggest they will take a very close look at what has become available cheap....they will continue to shop at the bargain bin.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Arlington » Thu Dec 14, 2017 10:06 am

electricron wrote:[Canada may] continue to seek more cream-puff used equipment across the board. That doesn't mean they will never ever buy brand new expensive equipment in the future, but recent tendencies suggest they will take a very close look at what has become available cheap....they will continue to shop at the bargain bin.

For those other items, how expensive were the mods required to make them useful? It sounds like Canada's record is buying used-but-usable items, which is different from buying a used-but-unusable Acela. Rebuilding Acelas without precedent, plan, or experience is very different from re-badging other's surplus goods.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Dec 14, 2017 1:06 pm

electricron wrote:While I believe VIA management would love to buy brand new rolling stock vs used, look at Canada's recent history of purchasing expensive objects lately. Marine Atlantic bought used ferries, Canadian Navy bought used replenishment ships, Canadian Air Force looking at buying used fighter jets, VIA buying used rail cars, etc. The national government hasn't bought anything brand new worth over a million each since they purchased the Kingston class coastal defense ships 20 years ago except for some air force transport aircraft.

So it is very easy to assume and propose they will continue to seek more cream-puff used equipment across the board. That doesn't mean they will never ever buy brand new expensive equipment in the future, but recent tendencies suggest they will take a very close look at what has become available cheap....they will continue to shop at the bargain bin.


It's not "assuming". It's what they're SAYING. Repeatedly. Consistently. Emphatically. In interviews, public reports, and even in a public FAQ page on their own website about how/why this procurement must be so. Not only why it must be so, but why they cannot mount another retrofit job like the LRC rebuilds or Renaissances. With full enumeration for why it must be so even with uncertain budgeting.

This isn't an exercise in psychoanalysis or reading between the lines. It's what their topmost corporate officers are bleeding SAYING is the corporate business plan hell or high water, full-funding or cash shortfall. Scenarios to the contrary must explain why they will alter a business plan so crystal-clearly reaffirmed ad nauseam. It's not enough to "door traps and blah blah blah" and "VOILA!". Ascribe what about the proposal has such compelling counter-momentum to the stated business plan that it'll literally turn their stated intent on its head and reverse-course on what they've said they WILL NOT do. And cite some recent evidence that the resolve behind what they're saying is actually weakening. That's not an assumption that can be taken on its face. The real unsupported assumption is the one on this thread: that the constant behind the proposals is that VIA are the ones making unsupported assumptions in their stated business plan and/or don't really mean what they say.

Sorry..that needs to be backed up with real evidence. It is essential for attempting to pose an Acela/retread scenario as plausible for VIA on the merits to ascribe all the juice and momentum it's got to overrule and overpower the stated company strategy of being against hacked retreads. Technical what-if's do not produce that counter-momentum. You not only have to describe what's possible, but also what's OVERPOWERING enough for a strategic reversal. Assuming they don't really mean what they say in absence of any evidence to contrary doesn't cut it. (Not even for budget because management addressed that point-blank.) That scoring is quite literally the difference between what's possible at all and what's just an exercise in spraying foam from a firehose.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby David Benton » Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:52 pm

what they want , and what they can afford may be 2 different beasts.and talking bout the accuracies of posts is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black .
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Jeff Smith » Thu Dec 14, 2017 4:55 pm

Wow. Interesting read on the catch-up.

ADMIN NOTE: This isn't six-degrees of Kev..., er, Acela/Avelia. Jet Train is NOT on topic. Nor is Turbo, or LRC, or Talgo. Keep it to where they may end up.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Dec 14, 2017 5:07 pm

David Benton wrote:what they want , and what they can afford may be 2 different beasts.and talking bout the accuracies of posts is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black .


No, this isn't a mind-reading game needing a crystal ball. VIA's own corporate officers--not a bunch of RR.net punters--address this point-blank in their on-the-record statements and corporate reports. The reason the procurement must be done cleanly on a sustainable spec or not be done at all and suffer service cuts is because Total Cost of Ownership over lifetime is the only fleet management cost that truly matters to them. They've done all the kludges and the retreads with the current Corridor fleet to save a few bucks on the initial procurements and look thriftier on a 4-year Cap Improvements budget, and all it's done for them is bleed them dry with the unsustainability of what they're stuck trying to maintain and left them helpless to cope when the troubleshooting risks of an unorthodox purchase get exploited by unfavorable luck or oversight. That's quite literally the "NEVER AGAIN" mantra here: pay the going rate to do it right projected over a full 25-year lifespan, or don't do it at all because they can't hack it any longer sacrificing sustainability for the sake of making somebody look good shaving a few bucks off the CIP.

Every "Yeah, but..." in this thread needs to take this mantra head-on and square what's being asked of VIA (or, for that matter, some state's DOT) in the proposal vs. what they state as their bottom line. Don't automatically assume that their real intentions are different from what they say they are. Posit an evidence-testable theory that their stance is being actively pushed by momentum to a different direction. Don't automatically assume everything is unknowable because the CIP budget for this is undefined, when VIA states point-blank why it's not the unknown CIP budget that matters to their bottom line but the Total Cost of Ownership, and what the consequences are for doing this wrong. Posit an evidence-testable theory for 1) how an Acela et al. re-use proposal squares with their stated terms of engagement...or 2) why their stated terms of engagement are wrong, why they will realize this and about-face, and what forces will push them in a different direction.


VIA provides us straight from the horse's mouth with their evaluation parameters. That makes the thought exercise in this thread very easy and clear-cut: square-up these re-use proposals with the business parameters VIA's been so very explicit about. So why aren't we just straight-up assigning scores to an Acela re-use scenario benchmarked against their stated priorities and seeing how the evidence fits? Why is so much energy instead being expended dismissing their stated prioriies as somehow not real? The persistent retreat on these pages into fortune-telling instead of trying to engage VIA on their helpfully offered terms ends up speaking volumes about the realism or lackthereof in these re-use proposals...whether that's completely unintentional by any well-meaning posters or not. This is a thinking exercise without a goal if it isn't at least trying to square with real-world business fits and what we can reasonably corroborate about those real-world business fits.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Arlington » Thu Dec 14, 2017 5:48 pm

I agree with F-Line because politicians are cowards and they'll want somebody to blame if things go over budget or fail technically, and VIA has already staked out a detailed "I told you so" on why to buy new, which makes VIA very hard to blame if things go wrong, which in turn, makes it very hard to see how politicians would simultaneously develop
1) the will for an emergency purchase & appropriation
2) the will for an emergency de-tilt/trap-cut/re-engine & appropriation (even if Bombardier were whispering a desire to keep AX-1s running and for the fix work, which Bombardier does not seem to be)
3) the will to own the overruns and technical problems if anything goes wrong.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:42 pm

Arlington wrote:
electricron wrote:[Canada may] continue to seek more cream-puff used equipment across the board. That doesn't mean they will never ever buy brand new expensive equipment in the future, but recent tendencies suggest they will take a very close look at what has become available cheap....they will continue to shop at the bargain bin.

For those other items, how expensive were the mods required to make them useful? It sounds like Canada's record is buying used-but-usable items, which is different from buying a used-but-unusable Acela. Rebuilding Acelas without precedent, plan, or experience is very different from re-badging other's surplus goods.


Actually, unorthodoxy was their problem.


HEP2 Corridor fleet is a bunch of retread Budd stainless steel coaches and club cars acquired mostly from Amtrak Heritage dispersals. Converted by AMTK from steam heat to HEP circa 1980, acquired by VIA starting '89 with some similar non-AMTK units being cobbled together from other sources, given one more midlife rebuild by AMF in ('95???), and given an Amfleet I -like interior-only livery refresh at some point in the last 10 or so years.

PROBLEMS: Same thing that's getting Beech Grove out of the Heritage business: extinct Budd parts that have to be self-fabricated, driving up cost for keeping them on the road. VIA does not have a maint HQ anywhere near as advanced in scope/capability as Beech Grove, so it costs a bloodbath for basic maint to keep these things going. And they are in horrendous mechanical condition >20 years after last rebuild with MTBF in the gutter.

WHY NEVER AGAIN?: When VIA first bought them they were dirt cheap, in those indestructible Budd stainless steel bodies, and the most ancient Budd parts still had a circulating aftermarket supply chain. So they got rebuilt at a pretty cut-rate price in the early/mid-90's during the last era where rebuilds of postwar stainless-steels was still a wholly orthodox process, and came back looking mighty spiffy for it. Light on the budget at a time when the Chretien Administration was kicking VIA repeatedly in the crotch. But Amtrak knew better when it purged them from the Heritage roster: that parts supply was not going to last the full lifespan duration of another rebuild, so the Cost of Ownership on the back-end was going to skyrocket. And it did...skyrocketed all over VIA's balance sheet. They're the most hated reliability gimps on the whole roster and a bottomless money pit to keep band-aiding for another day on the road. Beware the up-front discount that buries its true cost on the back-end and distorts TCO.

HISTORY-REPEATING RE-USE SCENARIO: ...if VIA bought those Corridor Capital HiLevels. Yeah, allegedly they're well-maintained and rebuilt if you believe CC's marketing hype. But it's another parts self-fab commitment because the supply chain for other HiLevels is long gone, and what are they going to cost to maintain in 10 years for an agency that can only survive buying off-shelf wholesale parts from lack of in-house shop specialty? Do...not...want.



LRC remans. Experimental Bombardier tilt unicorns from 1977 housed in monocoque aluminum carbodies, originally with matching locomotives in a quasi- power car sandwich configuration (locos retired '01, replaced by vastly more reliable stock P42DC's). Amtrak evaluated purchase but rejected them in favor of more Amfleet batches. Always very trouble-prone because of their extreme complexity, never ran at advertised design speed, maintenance costs always ran higher than projected despite years of promises that they'd start to come down. But there were a ton of units ordered, so became a 30-year backbone fleet. Midlife overhaul began in '07-08, removing the tilt hardware to simplify component selection to the most-generic minimum for reliability and parts availability in an extended lifespan. Rebuild program got bogged down by apocalyptic cost overruns for design changes, problems compensating for the structural voids from removed tilt equipment, and unseen deep wear on the monocoque frames. MTBF improved greatly, but is starting to level off again as 10th anniversary of reman program hits and projects to drop precipitously going forward. Parts still supported, but monocoque aluminum frames do not have much life left because they were built as thin as possible to balance FRA-compliant crashworthiness with weight savings for all the active-tilt junk.

WHY NEVER AGAIN?: The proverbial cautionary tale about kludging a unicorn design to do something different than it was first designed for. You never know what's going to happen when you lay a finger on design that highly custom and temperamental. VIA lost their shirts trying to do a rebuild that stepped these down from ultra-complex vehicles designed for emerging-HSR speeds (where they never had the tracks to show their stuff) into a bonus lifespan as vanilla intercity coaches. They succeeded on the life extension part (maybe not with superlative MTBF, but good by VIA standards)...but the game was already long lost from the initial cost blowouts.

HISTORY-REPEATING RE-USE SCENARIO: Acela. Quite literally because of the Bombardier/LRC lineage, and the fact that you cannot have door traps at all on an Acela carriage without doing another tilt-removal reman (and forget about solutions involving installing full-high platforms at Corridor stops, because the ones co-used and/or outright owned by 8-inch boarding GO Transit are untouchable). The risk for cost blowouts are unknowable on-spec, so why would they ever entertain going down that road again?



Renaissance fleet. Built '95 by Alstom for some UK overnight train through the Chunnel whose proposal fell apart after the never-used fleet was already assembled. VIA picked up all 139 cars in '00 for a flea-market $130M CDN price. Only work needed was finishing off the only semi-furnished interiors, converting excess sleepers (since this was originally an overnight fleet) to other car types, and quick-changing the couplers and HEP voltage over from UK-standard to North American-standard. A bunch of incomplete sleeper shells were also banked for parts supply and future completion if budgets allowed for more expansion. So easy and so cheap!!!!

Unfortunately, the UK loading gauge left them accessibility non-compliant by the Canadian version of the ADA. The smaller size leaves the aisles inaccessible to wheelchairs, so while there was room carved out by the doors for wheelchairs you can't transport someone in a wheelchair from car to car. Which is a big problem for accessing bathrooms, food service, and sleeping accommodations on uniformly Renaissance consists. VIA got sued by the Council for Canadians with Disabilities over accessibility violations, lost badly, and got ordered to go back and retrofit the interiors. Spent more money on accommodations, but the small loading gauge makes it impossible to clear the aisles without removing a whole set of aisle seats (which are already 2 x 1, not 2 x 2). So they are technically still inaccessible-by-law, and VIA has never stopped being hounded by legal pressure over that.

Renaissances are NOT scheduled for retirement and don't need a rebuild in the next decade. But VIA does intend to purge them off the Corridor because of the accessibility issues, and have scrapped the unfinished shells because the lawsuit loss means they'd have had to remove too many aisle seats for 100% accessibility to make useful cars out of the extras. Current fleet slated after the new order to be reassigned off the Corridor to augment the LD fleet, run as mainstays for non-Corridor routes (they're already on regular Ocean rotation), and to plug non-Corridor service expansion proposals VIA's evaluating. And then will probably get replaced in the after-next procurement lumped in with the "HEP1" LD fleet (which is considerably fresher than the HEP2 beaters).

WHY NEVER AGAIN?: ...because they got spanked hard by the courts on accessibility. Canadian accessibility regs are almost as no-give as the U.S.'s ADA, so "close enough" and fudging games doesn't cut it. It didn't cost them a ton in absolute $$$, but it deprived the fleet of expansion when they couldn't use the extra shells and deprived them of any chance at a rebuild no matter how good a structural shape the cars are in 10 years from now. This is why VIA officials are so adamant about staying on-spec and looking lifespan-wide. "Take-it-or-leave-it" retreads didn't end up giving them a big enough boost to capitalize with the Renaissance, despite the near-free startup cost.

HISTORY-REPEATING RE-USE SCENARIO: More UK retreads. Sure, you can look around a heterogeneous aftermarket and maybe get lucky with a fit for Canadian accessibility...but fact of the matter is the loading gauge is probably going to cut down 95% of the conceivable candidate stock because aisle/egress width at that size just will not pass muster with Canadian law. And Canadian law has affirmed that there's no participation prize for "close enough."




What would be a re-use scenario that actually fits their business goals?

EXAMPLE: The idea may not exactly thrill Corridor riders' imagination, but if they bought all 95 Horizons off Amtrak (assuming AMTK-dispersal vs. VIA-procurement timetables were a close enough match) and put them through a league-average midlife overhaul that fixes remaining flaws like the manual doors and tarts up the livery to something more tasteful...that would score pretty well at checking off all the necessary boxes on the business plan. Bombardier Comet II-IV lineage cars are as vanilla as it gets, as rugged as an aluminum carbody gets, have plentiful parts supply, and have parts supply so utterly generic that off-brand new parts will remain available long after the once-huge commuter Comet ranks start to dwindle in favor of bi-levels. And then maybe VIA goes and scours the 200-400 NJT, MNRR, MBTA, etc. dispersals from that lineage that'll be hitting the aftermarket and scrap brokers by '25 for the 50-75 sturdiest-condition aluminum shells that'll hold up best for another 20 years in harsh climate. Then strip those commuter cars down to the shells to put through a complete remanufacture program that re-equips them to component parity with their 95 Horizon rebuilds and levels any minor generational differences between makes. Then bank a bunch more cars from the dispersal/scrap ranks as fungible stored shells for future needs.

Satisfies their goals because it pounds every ounce of unorthodoxy out of the process. Comets are proven rebuildable to anyone's spec. Maintainability is protected through life-of-vehicle on the rebuild/reman without cost spikes. They have a good rep for reliability that doesn't project to worsen over this next rebuild from any negative fluctuations in parts availability. There are no special characteristics making degree-of-difficulty in maintaining them project worse over time, or nasty surprises with unicorn tech hiding cost blowouts on the reman. And they're cheap to acquire...but moreso consistent to project on costs throughout the extended life.


^^Just^^ a sampler example I haven't really thought all that deep about on its total merits. But that's how one would evaluate re-use scenarios through the lens VIA is looking at. They're looking to apply lessons learned from the pitfalls of their current Corridor roster. So any plausible re-use scenarios need to be scored against those very same pitfalls.

Doesn't really bode well overall for the Acela carriages' overall chances, but one could make a more compelling case by laying out for the thread exactly how it stacks up on VIA's stated criteria and forming some testable hypothesis from it about whether the scenario's got any possible momentum. Much more useful than just chucking "how" scenarios into the void while skipping the bottom-line "why" part.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby BandA » Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:11 pm

I think rebuilding the MBTA MBB's would be cheaper than owning used Acelas.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:21 pm

The MBBs are even less likely to move north. Arlington and F-Line have argued convincingly that either VIA gets new cars, or they don’t buy cars at all. That probably means Siemens gets another big order soon.

Would be fun to see the AX in service (NYP-)PHL-HAR, but that is up to 60 Mass.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:26 pm

BandA wrote:I think rebuilding the MBTA MBB's would be cheaper than owning used Acelas.


In terms of that Comet scenario (which again, I threw out as a sampler without thinking too hard about real chances)...not enough total MBB's to pick out an intercity fleet's worth of stronger frames to rebuild for >10 years of service in the punishing Great White North. Quite a few of the MBB's have floor rot issues to roll back. Those were a second-source foreign manufacturing batch that used cheaper aluminum than the genuine Bombardier articles produced in the same era.

We're talking when the mass dump of like 300-400 similar-vintage Comet II's, IIM's, IV's and Shoreliner I's & II's hits after NJT's and MNRR's next MLV procurements. You can find several dozen bona fide superlative-condition aluminum frames to strip and remanufacture by picking through those vast dispersals. There's no way to set the quality bar that high on keeper bodies when you've only got a small fleet of commuter beaters to sort through.
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