Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Dec 17, 2017 12:51 pm

F-18C/D: ready to fly in Canadian service with a little paint and an inspection
AX-1: not ready to roll in Canada without loads of work and probably a special dispensation from Transport Canada

F-35: extremely expensive and of more dubious need to RCAF
Siemens Viaggio: a good value and of clear need to VIA

Let’s not assume that these two transactions are similar.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby east point » Sun Dec 17, 2017 4:25 pm

Lost track. What is the present scheduled delivery dates including the prototypes ?
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Tadman » Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:16 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:This is a simple question: what evidence are you going to side with to evaluate the feasibility of them adopting something off-script?

A) Company management's own reaffirmed public statements about their business plans...such that you start by evaluating feasibility from scoring the re-use proposal against their business criteria?

B) The fervent personal belief that everything they're saying is wrong or suspect...such that anything goes, burden of proof is limited only by technical feasibility and the bounds of one's imagination, and business scruples are irrelevant and up to the "doubters" to prove.




Perhaps you didn't read what I wrote. I'm not supporting something off-script. I'm simply stating that the last two guys that ran a passenger carrier that made a stand found themselves in the unemployment line, so citing that as an ironclad indicator that Via will order new equipment isn't sound logic. It's not UPRR, they don't make rational decisions.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby David Benton » Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:23 pm

east point wrote:Lost track. What is the present scheduled delivery dates including the prototypes ?

Perhaps the most pertinent point of all. There's no guarantee There won't be long delays delivering the Acela 2. There's also the possibility of problems arising with the ACS64's, or even something like major cracking in the Amfleets etc. Unlikely but possible. Amtrak may do well to keep the Acelas for a few years.
Things change, little has gone to plan over the last few procurement's.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby David Benton » Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:27 pm

electricron wrote:
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Nobody in the real world makes a purchase decision by dismissing probabilities. So you most definitely can't start off the whole thinking exercise by tossing all officially-provided business evaluation criteria from the equation as voodoo. For one, it's not a very efficient expense of mental energy...because if the Acela scores a million miles off the mark on all of VIA's stated business criteria then changes to some or even most of those criteria aren't going to make up nearly enough ground to yank the Acela back into the realm of feasibility. At least if you're keeping score you'll know when you see it's off by enough magnitudes that it'll be a waste of time to keep force-fitting and know that it's time to move on to other rolling stock possibilities. Dismissing all that's known as equally unknowable simply becomes a crutch for keeping the dream alive no matter what.

But Canada's latest Prime Minister does make purchasing decisions by dismissing possibilities over political reasons. He campaign stating he'll never buy F-35 fighters because they can't fly, yet just about all his trading and defense partners are buying it. Even the previous government and the Candaian defense forces wanted to buy them. He proposed buying brand new F-18 EF versions instead because they should be cheaper. But Boeing won a trade disagreement against a Canadian company and now he doesn't want to buy from them either. So instead he is going to buy 18 more used F-18 CD versions from Australia just to kick buying new replacement jets down the road another 5 years or so. The reason why Australia will have used F-18 CD versions available is because those jets that can't fly will be flying to Australia. During this entire process, the price tag for 18 jets have fallen from $2-3 Billion down to $500 million.
So please don't suggest governments don't make political purchasing decisions. Please don't suggest close term prices aren't important. What VIA wants they may not get, the Canadian Air Force didn't get what they wanted. Who knows what logic the present Prime Minister will use when VIA approaches him for money to buy new trains?

Dismissing used Acela sets before discovering what Amtrak will sell them for is dismissing them too early.

At least they are not like New Zealand in the 1980's, where we got EMU's from Hungary in exchange for a lot of sheep meat ( they actually turned out to be reliable).
Via is probably more of a political animal than Amtrak is, and I think you are spot on , Via will get what it is given.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby east point » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:10 pm

David Benton wrote:
east point wrote:Lost track. What is the present scheduled delivery dates including the prototypes ?

Perhaps the most pertinent point of all. There's no guarantee There won't be long delays delivering the Acela 2. There's also the possibility of problems arising with the ACS64's, or even something like major cracking in the Amfleets etc. Unlikely but possible. Amtrak may do well to keep the Acelas for a few years.
Things change, little has gone to plan over the last few procurement's.


Precisely my concerns. Was more interested in the planned delivery and full operation of each train set. We can then draw a line as that is the absolute earliest AC-2s will enter service. Then we can plot the actual time as the delays become apparent.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:53 pm

At this point I feel that in order to advance the discussion it would be worth considering how much Bombardier (or some other third party) would have to offer an operator to take over the Acelas. I don't propose this because I think it's realistic but because I think it will help others appreciate just how bad a choice the Acela trainsets would be.

Two servicing facilities: $15M x 2= $30M
Tools, Parts and Equipment: $20M
Crew and Mechanical Training: $5M

So right out the gate without station modifications or track/catenary costs it's at least: $55M
Last edited by gokeefe on Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Mon Dec 18, 2017 12:29 am

electricron wrote:But Canada's latest Prime Minister does make purchasing decisions by dismissing possibilities over political reasons. He campaign stating he'll never buy F-35 fighters because they can't fly, yet just about all his trading and defense partners are buying it. Even the previous government and the Candaian defense forces wanted to buy them. He proposed buying brand new F-18 EF versions instead because they should be cheaper. But Boeing won a trade disagreement against a Canadian company and now he doesn't want to buy from them either. So instead he is going to buy 18 more used F-18 CD versions from Australia just to kick buying new replacement jets down the road another 5 years or so. The reason why Australia will have used F-18 CD versions available is because those jets that can't fly will be flying to Australia. During this entire process, the price tag for 18 jets have fallen from $2-3 Billion down to $500 million.
So please don't suggest governments don't make political purchasing decisions. Please don't suggest close term prices aren't important. What VIA wants they may not get, the Canadian Air Force didn't get what they wanted. Who knows what logic the present Prime Minister will use when VIA approaches him for money to buy new trains?

Dismissing used Acela sets before discovering what Amtrak will sell them for is dismissing them too early.


Fighter jets do not roll on VIA rail. Come on...are we really resorting to incongruities like that to keep plausible deniability going???


All I am saying is USE THE EVIDENCE WE HAVE to score the feasibility. The closest available evidence we have is not a sidebar about fighter jets or ferries, it's not spurious comparisons with Union Pacific, it's not the fervent personal belief that everything is willy-nilly and the PM is going to make fools out of everyone because Y.O.L.O. The closest available evidence we have is VIA's stated and documented business strategy. So start there, because it's the only starting point anyone halfway resembling a railroad decision-maker has given us.

Start there and evaluate Acela re-use point...by...point against VIA's criteria. How does it score? Is it even in the ballpark? When you've established if it's even in the ballpark, THEN play around with variables like VIA changing its business plans. Does it get any closer to feasibility if their procurement criteria change? Under which procurement criteria, changing feasibility which direction? Now answer what political decisions move which procurement criteria favorably or unfavorably? No, not all political unknowables are going to behave the same way; only a certain thrust against a certain number of criteria is going to push the Acela closer to adoption by VIA. Pinpoint what has to trend positively to make that happen. How far out into the abyss does each point in the biz plan have to go to collectively force-fit a match?


You have to be willing to take a gander at this if wildcard political chaos is going to be such a cinch to exert force on VIA's business plans. Because the plans are defined, but the contrary politics being blanket-cited here are not. So cite them. If you can quantify the Acelas' chances against the stated business plan, you can track how those chances change as the business plan changes and warps to the politics. This is not unknowable voodoo.

So if this is not unknowable voodoo, why is it that those clinging hardest to this particular re-use scenario seem to have the loudest aversion to acknowledging the only evaluation criteria that's been officially provided? It's right there...use it as the sleuthing tool it is. Is there a reason why this discussion is so utterly beyond empiricism that we can't so much as attempt that???
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Tadman » Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:31 am

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:

All I am saying is USE THE EVIDENCE WE HAVE to score the feasibility. The closest available evidence we have is not a sidebar about fighter jets or ferries, it's not spurious comparisons with Union Pacific, it's not the fervent personal belief that everything is willy-nilly and the PM is going to make fools out of everyone because Y.O.L.O. The closest available evidence we have is VIA's stated and documented business strategy. So start there, because it's the only starting point anyone halfway resembling a railroad decision-maker has given us.


We're using the evidence we have. There is very distinct data that shows a documented "business strategy" from a government agency usually does not get what they ask for. There is very distinct data that shows the CEO of a government railroad will get the ax for making a stand that doesn't agree with politicians. There is an empty suit running Canada and a rather impulsive suit running the USA. Neither is prone to rational decision making.

And seriously, the comparison to the UP was not spurious. It simply states that the UP, as a for-profit stockholder-owned entity, usually makes rational decisions with a mind to long-term ramifications when it comes to rolling stock purchases. Government operators have not been known to do the same, even when the choice is plainly available. I can't imagine how you didn't understand that when you can write book-length tomes on here about everything.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:56 am

gokeefe wrote:Two servicing facilities: $15M x 2= $30M
Tools, Parts and Equipment: $20M
Crew and Mechanical Training: $5M

So right out the gate without station modifications or track/catenary costs it's at least: $55M


Taking the above further I would note that all of this is predicated on the trainsets being sold for $1.

Let's also assume that each car needs a $2M rehab and that the power cars need $5M each.

120 Coach & Foodservice Cars = $240M
40 Power Cars = $200M

Total Rolling Stock Rehabilitation: $440M
Total Facilities and Personnel: $55M
Total Cash Payment from Bombardier to New Operating Agency: $495M

I think these figures are very conservative. The rolling stock could easily be double what I guessed.

So right now there is roughly a half a billion dollar barrier to any proposal that involves reuse of Acela.

The alternative for any potential operator is to spend a very similar amount of money and get brand new trainsets with far better operating characteristics and double the remain service life.

There simply is no case for reuse of these trainsets. The financial barriers to reuse are extreme and the return on investment is very poor.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Matt Johnson » Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:58 am

Adaptive reuse is the en vogue term for obsolete structures these days, so I propose a series of Acela Express roadside diners!
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Dec 18, 2017 2:26 pm

Matt Johnson wrote:Adaptive reuse is the en vogue term for obsolete structures these days, so I propose a series of Acela Express roadside diners!

Hopefully they wouldn’t get stuck in a 15 degree tilt :P
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby Mackensen » Mon Dec 18, 2017 5:46 pm

Tadman wrote:
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:

All I am saying is USE THE EVIDENCE WE HAVE to score the feasibility. The closest available evidence we have is not a sidebar about fighter jets or ferries, it's not spurious comparisons with Union Pacific, it's not the fervent personal belief that everything is willy-nilly and the PM is going to make fools out of everyone because Y.O.L.O. The closest available evidence we have is VIA's stated and documented business strategy. So start there, because it's the only starting point anyone halfway resembling a railroad decision-maker has given us.


We're using the evidence we have. There is very distinct data that shows a documented "business strategy" from a government agency usually does not get what they ask for. There is very distinct data that shows the CEO of a government railroad will get the ax for making a stand that doesn't agree with politicians. There is an empty suit running Canada and a rather impulsive suit running the USA. Neither is prone to rational decision making.

And seriously, the comparison to the UP was not spurious. It simply states that the UP, as a for-profit stockholder-owned entity, usually makes rational decisions with a mind to long-term ramifications when it comes to rolling stock purchases. Government operators have not been known to do the same, even when the choice is plainly available. I can't imagine how you didn't understand that when you can write book-length tomes on here about everything.


I'd be interested to see such data; there was a similar discussion in the Nippon Sharyo thread which petered out. Comparing any of the major passenger operators to Union Pacific (or another Class I) seems difficult. Passenger and freight have different power needs; the GE E60 and EMD SDP40F in the mid-1970s demonstrated the dangers in adapting freight power for passenger tasks, though the EMD F40PH turned out fine. The markets for those locomotives are completely different.

Also, what's "rational" for a shareholder-owned company isn't necessarily rational for a transit operator. A for-profit company needs to maximize return on investment. A government-funded/subsidized transit operator needs to control costs, but it also needs to secure its political future. Yes, that means you can see rolling stock acquisition where non-operational factors were involved. Does that make it a bad choice? Not necessarily.

VIA has a history of refurbishment in lieu of new equipment, and so do some recent examples of other Canadian entities. Okay. VIA has also stated that they're not doing that this time, and has laid out some specific plans. Is there a political reason, beyond past behavior, for VIA to buy the Acela cars instead of pursuing new buy?
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Dec 18, 2017 5:53 pm

Mackensen wrote: Is there a political reason, beyond past behavior, for VIA to buy the Acela cars instead of pursuing new buy?

Thanks, I’ve been mulling over how to ask that question. There would have to be a very specific lobby in Ottawa in favor of not just used cars, which can be gotten in some quantity depending on the car, but specifically the AX-1 sets.
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Re: Acela Replacement and Disposition Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:33 pm

Bombardier employees in Quebec.
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