TRAVEL NEWS

Amtrak's Acela trains will speed up to 150 mph in New Jersey

Zach Wichter
USA TODAY

All aboard for higher speed rail service.

Infrastructure improvements in New Jersey will allow Amtrak’s Acela trains to reach 150 mph on a 16-mile segment between New Brunswick and South Brunswick, the railroad announced Tuesday. That will mean quicker travel times for premium passengers on the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington.

The upgrade is part of the railroad’s New Jersey High-Speed Rail Improvement Program, which will include an expanded higher-speed zone by 2024 and other changes meant to make traveling by rail more appealing. Amtrak also recently received $450 million from the Department of Transportation for improvements. 

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An Amtrak Acela train sits at Philadelphia's at 30th Street Station on May 8, 2010.

Amtrak plans new, faster trains 

“The upgrades coming from the New Jersey High-Speed Rail Improvement Program exemplify our continual commitment to upgrade the Northeast Corridor and transform the customer experience as we welcome more passengers back on board,” Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Thanks to the hard work by Amtrak’s infrastructure, maintenance and construction services team and our DOT and commuter partners, our customers will experience more reliable and faster trains and better on-time performance on this busy section" of the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak plans to start introducing new Acela trains in the fall of 2023, which will be capable of even higher speeds – up to 160 mph. Prior to the improvements in New Jersey, existing Acela equipment was limited to slower travel on most of the line, except for short 150-mph segments in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. 

Trains elsewhere in the world are much faster 

Acela is Amtrak’s premier train. With only business and first-class seating, it offers the fastest scheduled services on the Northeast Corridor, but the railroad is working on making things better for travelers on regular regional trains as well.

Amtrak plans to introduce new trains on many routes by 2024, which will offer upgraded interiors and amenities, and will be designed to travel at speeds up to 125 mph.

While 160 or even 150 mph may seem fast for Amtrak's passengers, it's still slow compared with high-speed intercity service in much of the rest of the world. The fastest trains in China can hit speeds higher than 220 mph, and European high-speed rail usually maxes out close to 200 mph.