CARBONDALE — Thirty-three new locomotives will offer Amtrak customers a smoother, faster ride, representatives of Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation said Wednesday.
The locomotives, purchased through $216.5 million in federal funds, replace units that are 25 to 30 years old, said IDOT Passenger Rail Communications Manager Scott Speegle.
“Obviously, given that they’re newer units, we’re anticipating much less maintenance costs and fewer breakdowns,” Speegle said.
IDOT purchased the Siemens Charger locomotives jointly with Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri, and they will be leased to Amtrak; the rail operator owned the old units. The new locomotives were first rolled out in August for testing.
“Now all the trains from Chicago to Carbondale will be using the new locomotives, as well as the other corridors throughout the Midwest,” Speegle said. “We’ve got 12 in now. By the end of January, we’ll have all 33 delivered from Siemens, the manufacturer.”
The new locomotives offer a 90 percent reduction in emissions and three times less fuel consumption compared to the old units.
“A lot of our customers care about the earth and about pollution, and these are so much cleaner to operate, and they’re better for our partners at IDOT and the customers because they’re going to cost less to operate in that they get better mileage,” said Marc Magliari, Amtrak spokesman.
Last week, Illinois, Missouri and Michigan inked a deal with Siemens to build 133 new passenger coaches, said Derrick James, senior manager of government affairs with Amtrak.
“In addition to having new locomotives, in a few years we’ll have all new train sets — so new coaches, new seating, WiFi, more bicycle accommodations, smoother ride, so you’ll have all-new trains,” James said.
Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams called the new locomotives “a big improvement.”
“It’s going to make Amtrak more efficient, it’s going to improve the service overall and make it more reliable. So we’re supportive of any upgrade that the state and Amtrak do to provide better service to our citizens here,” he said.
Williams said that looking at the new locomotive, it was easy to visualize the expanded multimodal station the city hopes to build at the Amtrak facility. Carbondale is currently working to secure grant funding for the project.
“The whole point of all these investments is to make the system stronger and to provide greater connectivity to our residents, not just in Carbondale, but in the region, and so this is a big first step forward to do that,” he said.