When it comes to trainset procurement, the US is a bureaucratic and technological basketcase. Vendors have to navigate the byzantine Buy-America and FRA rules. You can get a sense of the dysfunction in the Questions-and-Answers submitted during the early stages of the bidding process for the new Acela rolling stock.
A number of questions regard the conflicting requirements. These trains are supposed to be “proven designs” and yet be made in America. Obviously both can’t be true. One vendor asks:
As the FRA will place unique requirements on this equipment, it would be helpful to provide an understanding of how much change will be permitted to a “Service Proven” design before it is no longer considered to be the same design.
Might a syntactic change be a way to get around this conundrum?
Because of the special requirement and constraint of Amtrak operating conditions…and Tier III compliance, a lot of design changes will be necessitated from the “Service Proven” equipment. Physical appearance might be different from the existing “Service Proven “equipment. As such, the requirement of service proven or a variant thereof should be read as “developed with proven technologies”.
Tier III compliance in this case means having to design around the ridiculous FRA buff strength requirement:
Due to the (not yet fully known) impact of the (not yet published) FRA Tier III requirements…it is likely that axle loads of “proven” equipment will exceed 17 tonne. The TSI permits operation of 18 tonne axles at speeds to within less than 5 mph of the maximum specified by Amtrak; consideration should be given to allowing this slight increase in speed over the limit set by the TSI.
The FRA denied that request, as well as two other requests to reduce the buff-strength requirement.
And then there is the problem for how to compute a price:
There are components which are not available in the US at the moment. How can we state the price to be made in the US? Shall we include an investment cost, technology transfer cost including patent? This requirement does not seem realistic.
So it would appear that the FRA learned nothing from the Acela-1 fiasco. The nonsensical design requirements will scare away bidders. With fewer bidders (plus the extreme cost of a full-custom trainset), the Acela-2 trains will probably be really expensive. Hopefully, Acela-2 won’t be as unreliable.