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Amtrak Introduces First of 70 New Locomotives

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Amtrak introduced Friday the first of 70 new locomotives designed to make traveling in and out of the city at least a little smoother. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

More than 250 million people take Amtrak along the Northeast Corridor each year. The stretch of track from Boston to Washington, D.C. is the busiest in North America.

But one out of every four of those trains wasn't on time last month, and about one in five ran late last year.

Just ask the riders.

"I wasn't that frustrated this morning, but the three construction guys that were supposed to be on the 4:32, and it didn't leave until 5:20, were really upset," said one rider.

Amtrak has long sought pricey improvements to its aging tracks and signals. Congress has not gone along.

However, on Friday, the first of the new engines that will power its fleet along those tracks made its debut.

Amtrak bigwigs were along for the ride. They said that the engines will make a difference, even if their speed is the same as the locomotives now in use.

"You're going to have a much greater level of reliability," said Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman. "It's building, really, what needs to be done for Amtrak. The basic workhorse is sitting right in front of you."

Moving at top speeds of 125 miles per hour, the engine isn't exactly high-speed rail, but officials say it's a vital addition to a railway operating along century-old infrastructure.

"This wouldn't be considered infrastructure improvement as much as Amtrak looking to improve its existing fleet of equipment, which is equally important, if not more important, than the infrastructure," said Amtrak spokesperson Clifford Cole.

The electric engine is one of 70 that will be added to the fleet.

The new equipment will be replacing locomotives that have been in service 25 to 35 years and that have logged millions of miles. The new equipment is expected to be on track fully by the end of next year."

"It's just like an automobile," Boardman said. "I mean, a lot of people trade in their car in three years, six years, nine years. We're talking about equipment here that's 35 years old."

Amtrak is spending close to $500 million on the engines in hopes that riders see it as money well spent.

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