From today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, in an article appropriately titled Acela: More cannonball than bullet:
Unlike the sleek high-speed trains of Europe and Asia that resemble aluminum birds, the Acela is a steel tank, built to survive collisions in the mixed-use environment of the Northeast Corridor.
“We had to cope with the FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] crash standards,” said Francois Lacote, senior vice president/technical for Alstom Transport, the French train-builder that made the Acela for Amtrak along with Bombardier, a Canadian firm. “It’s much heavier, it’s totally different.”
The 308-passenger Acela weighs 1.2 million pounds, twice as much as Alstom’s 300-passenger, 600,000-pound AGV train.
“If you want to go fast, you need light trains with no curves [on the tracks],” said George Mekosh, product manager for Bombardier Transportation/North America. “And you can’t have a station stop at every congressman’s hometown.”
True high-speed trains run on dedicated tracks, free of conflicts with slower commuter trains and heavier freight trains.
At least some light is shining on insane FRA policies, though I don’t entirely agree with the last sentence.