Happening Now

Amtrak Issues Long-Distance RFP

December 15, 2023

By Jim Mathews / President & CEO

Amtrak is giving the rolling stock industry seven days to respond to its request for proposals (RFP) to replace the long-distance fleet – suggesting that the request-for-information (RFI) process launched a year ago has already created a list of competitors ready to file their bids.

The railroad issued its formal RFP today, with a due date of December 22, 2023, but with no real details in the public listing apart from the due date. Even so, it’s good news insofar as it kicks off the long-overdue process of getting some kind of design into the U.S. rail industry’s ever-growing backlog of orders. And the fact that the due date is seven days from today suggests Amtrak already knows what it’s going to get, and industry already knows who is going to play and with what design or set of designs.

Today’s action still leaves unsettled, apparently, the internal argument over bi-level versus single level in favor of bi-level, given that the RFP is only for “long-distance bi-level fleet replacement.” Whatever is bought will replace the bi-level fleet, but the RFP title, at least, gives away little about what that might look like.

We do know conceptually what kinds of ideas Amtrak has in mind. Many of us – probably many of you reading this – were contacted last year by a firm working for Amtrak to determine what kinds of sleeper products would be attractive, and in what sort of arrangements. And this year, Amtrak shared some very high-level concepts around how to make all of the amenities of a long-distance train available to passengers with mobility issues, concepts we weighed in on back in August.

The ideas I saw repeatedly in various forms involved different kinds of sleeper accommodations which appeared to satisfy a variety of fare levels, as well as improved coach sections, much more personalized lighting, wide ADA-compliant aisles, and full diners with seating and kitchen stretching across more than one car.

It will be exciting to see how the manufacturers respond to Amtrak’s challenge to put all that together. Let’s hope whoever responds next week includes strategies for moving quickly as part of their proposals.