Greater City Providence

220mph Washington to Boston

Acela Power Car 2020

Photo (cc) John H Gray

The Transport Politic reports on Amtrak’s renewed push to bring true high speed rail to the Northeast Corridor.

Acela’s current top speed is 150mph over a short portion of the Northeast Corridor (through parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts). Amtrak’s goal is to raise the top speed in the corridor to 220mph.

Amtrak’s renewed dedication to high speed rail coincides with interest by foreign rail companies to run new lines in the U.S.

This new effort represents a serious upgrade in Amtrak’s thinking about the potential for the 457-mile Northeast Corridor. As recently as October 2009, the company laid out a $10 billion plan that would do little more than decrease travel times between Washington and Boston to 5h30, down from about 6h30 today. Chinese trains travel the 601 miles between Wuhan and Guangzhou in just three hours.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • Yeah but if they do get the whole line to 220MPH that means NYC is one hour from Providence, maybe 1:20 from Boston. That is significant.

  • Yes. In the 60s through early 70s when they first proposed the Northeast corridor high-speed rail line the prediction was that travel time between Providence to New York would be one hour and between Providence to Boston 12 minutes. There was a lot written on this at the time and the late Senator Pell wrote on this in the early 60s.

  • According to Transportpolic:
    “The Chinese are investing in two major track types: very high-speed rail, for trains traveling at 350 kph (220 mph); and typical high-speed rail, for trains traveling at 200-250 kph (125-155 mph). The latter tracks would be shared with regional, commuter, and freight trains, while the former would be reserved for high-speed trainsets alone”

    Is Amtrak proposing separate lines? I don’t think you will see 220mph as long as they are sharing the track with freight and commuter lines. How about just phasing out the conventional rail stock on the route and replace them all with high speed stock. Make it all Acela. Right now you pay a premium for not a lot of time savings. Of course that might mean having to eliminate some stops.

  • At least in RI they do not share the track with freight. There is a separate 3rd track for the freighters.

    As far as commuters, who the hell would need MBTA when Amtrak could do Providence to Boston in 12 minutes?

  • People who like using the time on the train to get some reading or work done will use the MBTA… as well as people who don’t want to pay more than $7 each way.

  • I took Amtrak to Boston last weekend, just because I didn’t want to wait for the later T which was also going to take longer. It was something like leaving Providence 10 minutes later, but arriving in Boston an hour later.

    Anyway, there was an Acela run to Boston later in the day for $41! Can you imagine. The Metroliner was $19 and pretty damn quick. I can’t imagine paying $41 for the train to Boston, I don’t care how fast it is.

  • There are people who use Amtrak for commuting to Boston, at least the regional train, which is as little as $13 one way and takes less time than the MBTA, but more than Acela.

  • The difference though, is that you can get “cheap” monthly passes for the MBTA. Does Amtrak offer that for commuters?

  • Amtrak has a monthly pass and a 10-ride ticket which are both discounted for Northeast Corridor service. There are people who choose to come back to Rhode Island on Amtrak after commuting up on the T because the service is faster. Amtrak can be late heading north, but generally leaves on time heading south.

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