According to the Boston Globe, Amtrak's new high-speed train, the Acela Express, whisked more than 11,000 passengers between Boston and Washington in its first four weeks of service, bettering projections by 12 percent, the national railroad announced yesterday.

A 304-passenger luxury train that made its first trip on Dec. 11, the Acela Express largely held to its timetable as well, arriving on time 92 percent of its trips, ebullient Amtrak officials said. On time, they noted, meant the trains arrived and departed within 15 minutes of scheduled times.

"The numbers are great. We had a spectacular opening," said Amtrak vice chairman Michael S. Dukakis, the former governor. "And this was with one round trip a day. When we get the full complement of 10 high-speeds and eight regionals a day, we'll see the numbers exploding."

A second train, a round trip between Boston and New York, will be added to the schedule by the end of February, as will a nonstop express between New York and Washington, said Amtrak spokesman Rick Remington.

After a champagne-bathed inaugural run, the nation's first bullet train had an electrical problem on the locomotive and was pulled out of service on its second day.

What followed was a transportation debacle that infuriated Amtrak officials: a substitute Metroliner train broke down in Connecticut, and the train that subbed for that one reached South Station nearly two hours late.

But things were positive from there, giving hope to rail advocates that Amtrak may yet achieve fiscal independence from federal subsidies by 2003, the deadline set by Congress.

Additionally, the strong first month bodes well for a bill before the new Congress that would appropriate $10 billion for high-speed rail initiatives across the continent, Dukakis said.

Michael Wascom, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, which represents most major air carriers, said he was impressed by Acela's opening month, but that it had done little to affect the travel equation in the Northeast.

Still, the evening trains bound for Boston's stations from New York's Penn Station also sold the most tickets of any Acela Express runs, Remington said, adding that they were typically two-thirds full.

Ross Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, concurred: "It proves what we've said all along: If you give people good service, you'll get great ridership."

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January 12, 2001

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers