A special train operating on Amtrak's Chicago–Detroit corridor yesterday celebrated the inauguration of 110-mph speeds between Porter, Indiana and Kalamazoo, Michigan – the fastest passenger rail service in the Midwest.
“This improvement is one of many we are making in the Midwest and throughout our system,” said Tom Carper, Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors. “By operating at higher speeds, our passengers can reach their destinations sooner, our trains and our crews can be more productive by covering more ground in less time and we are showing how incremental improvements to Amtrak service can be achieved with new technology.”
"This is a big step towards better intercity rail service in this region," said Midwest High Speed Rail Association Executive Director Richard Harnish, who was a passenger on the inaugural 110-mph run. "We applaud the many years of hard work by the Michigan Department of Transportation and Amtrak, the leadership of Governor Rick Snyder, and the vision of President Obama in making high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail improvements a national transportation priority."
The new speeds are possible thanks to a new Incremental Train Control System (ICTS) developed by General Electric in use on the Amtrak-owned Michigan District between Porter and Kalamazoo. The system continually monitors the condition of signals, switches, and crossings, providing a display in the locomotive control cab. GE is also currently deploying ITCS as a train control solution in California to help Amtrak achieve interoperability in the coming years.
Amtrak extended ITCS coverage on the Michigan District segment last year, completing the system across 97 miles of track and permitting the higher speeds on about 80 miles of the route, 64 miles in Michigan and 16 in Indiana. The FRA granted approval for regular service at 110 mph on January 27, 2012.
Amtrak will operate eight daily passenger trains at 110 mph; three Norfolk Southern freight trains also operate through this section of track under ITCS control.
Amtrak began raising speeds on this corridor from 79 mph in 2001 to 90 mph in 2002 and to 95 mph in 2005. Sustained operations at 110 mph will shave 10 minutes from the 95 mph schedules and about 20 minutes from the 2001 schedules on the Amtrak-owned segment of the corridor.
“This sets the stage for expansion of accelerated service from Kalamazoo to Dearborn by 2015, helping us meet the demands of the next generation of travelers,” said Kirk T. Steudle, State Transportation Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Michigan is in the late stages of completing the purchase of a 135-mile segment of track between Kalamazoo and Dearborn from Norfolk Southern Railway, with the support of a federal grant and technical assistance from Amtrak. See Michigan Announces Major Progress on Detroit-to-Chicago Route.