The French group Alstom will deliver its first TGV trainsets to the United States

The first Avelia Liberty train set en route to the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo. (Amtrak)

The railway supplier Alstom won the contract to modernize trains on the line between Boston and Washington DC five years ago. The delivery of the 28 trainsets ordered, initially scheduled for last June, is now imminent. “

  The first train, awaiting the final agreements with the customer at the level of inspections, is about to leave the site  “, indicates Didier Cuadrado, director of the project. Their entry into service is maintained for 2022.

The Frenchman knows the shop well, where he has worked for 22 years. “  I started in France in 1999, where I was already part of the teams in charge of the first Acela train, which currently runs between the two capitals. 

“For this call for tenders, he remembers that the company”  faced its usual European competitors: Siemens, Bombardier, CAF and Talgo. The Chinese were not present, and the Japanese quickly threw in the towel . “

Under the Buy American Act (protectionist legislation according to which the direct purchases of the American federal government concerning public transport must be produced in the United States), the manufacture of the new high-speed trains is mainly carried out on site, in the small town of New Yorkaise of Hornell. 

Alstom has, however, obtained exemptions, which mainly concern “  the cauldrons of passenger cars, manufactured in our factory in Italy; and brake system components, which are not available in North America because we use European technology,  ”explains Didier Cuadrado.

 Based in the suburbs of New York, he spends 80% of his time in Hornell, in the western part of the state. ” 

The city played a central role in the maintenance of steam locomotives until the mid-twentieth century, and even a little after, ”he recalls. “ Its decline began with the expansion of the automobile and aircraft. In 1987, Alstom bought a factory there. Today, the group employs more than 800 workers there, placing itself as the municipality’s largest employer.

Assembly of the bar car for the new Avelia Liberty trainsets in the Alstom factory in Hornell (Amtrak)

The French company will build and maintain the high-speed trainsets for Amtrak. ”  On the model of the French TGV, each train will have two power units and a certain number of passenger cars – new in the case of the Avelia Liberty model, dedicated to the American market “, explains Didier Cuadrado. 

Each train will therefore have eleven cars in total, with the possibility of adding three more to adapt to the flow of travelers. The capacity of these new trains is set at 386 passengers, an increase of around 25% compared to the old ones.

Amtrak plans to use the Avelia Liberty at 160 miles per hour, or just under 260 kilometers per hour. ”  We are testing it at nearly 280 kilometers per hour, but the train has been designed to go up to 300 “, specifies Didier Cuadrado, adding that ” in the United States, the tracks do not allow for the moment of reach that speed there. 

The Biden administration’s proposal to invest some $ 620 billion in transportation has been particularly welcomed by Alstom, which ”  hopes to see a fairly rapid rise in orders linked to the US government trying to push rail infrastructure.  ” . 

Didier Cuadrado recalls that “  the United States was one of the pioneers of rail. Certain regional corridors definitely have a future: between Boston and Washington DC for example, but also between Saint-Louis and Chicago, Dallas and Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles, or even Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. 

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