Amtrak to Pick High-Speed-Rail Firm

From Bloomberg Business News

Amtrak directors will meet next week to decide which companies will build a planned $700-million high-speed rail system in the Northeast, a spokesman said Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that groups led by Canada's Bombardier Inc. and Germany's Siemens are the leading contenders for the contract.

"We can't speculate" on which companies will be chosen, Amtrak spokesman Greg Dany said.

The proposed system has been in the works for years and is eagerly awaited by many. "It is a source of great inefficiency in our transportation system that we rely so heavily on airplanes for such short trips," said Ross Capon, executive director of the National Assn. of Railroad Passengers.

The new trains will be "a tremendous boon" for travelers and smaller cities such as Providence, R.I., and New Haven, Conn., Capon said. "One thing trains do well is serve those intermediate points they go through," he said.

If the Siemens group is selected, it will build a train similar to a high-speed system that operates in Germany, said Earnest Thompson, a spokesman for the company's transportation systems unit. The train would be built in the United States to specifications determined by Amtrak, he said.

Bombardier and GEC Alsthom of France submitted a joint bid to Amtrak in mid-November, Bombardier spokesman Michel Lord said. "We're just awaiting the decision," Lord said.

Bombardier and GEC Alsthom have proposed building a new train, called the "American Flyer," based on the technology used to build France's high-speed TGV trains.

Amtrak plans to build 18 to 26 of the new trains. Officials there weren't immediately available for comment.

Amtrak has also proposed building a $4-billion "bullet train" in Florida by 2005.

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