How Fast Do Amtrak Trains Go? Really? They’re Slow!

So, how fast do Amtrak trains go? Amtrak trains go up to 150mph on the track & the Amtrak Acela got up to 165mph in testing! The speed potential of an Amtrak train it depends on the class of train, the railroad & the traffic.

Across the fleet The Amtrak Acela is the fastest passenger train and can hit a top speed of 150mph. With that said, the age of the track limits how fast an Amtrak Acela train can go.

However, across the board Amtrak trains will only reach an average speed of 80mph.

Innovative technologies make it easier for people to travel around the globe. Self-driving cars, modern trains, and e-bikes allow us to go wherever we choose. However among these new transportation technologies, modern trains have been the most efficient.

Rail operators like Amtrak make sure to provide high-quality services and have long been America’s preferred mode of travel.

Hence, people get curious about how fast Amtrak trains go and why they should be America’s choice. You’ve probably heard about this before, so we are here to give you some facts about it.

how fast do amtrak trains go

Let’s Just Clarify, What Is Amtrak?

Amtrak is the national rail operator that operates more than 300 trains each day.

It connects America through environmentally friendly ways by cutting fuel and energy usage year over year by implementing numerous major projects. These projects are energy efficiency enhancements, enhanced train management, and more efficient engines.

Moreover, they are improving the customer experience and investing in infrastructure, such as the locomotive and car fleet, stations, and amenities. 

Did you know that rail travel emits up to 83 percent fewer greenhouse gases than driving and up to 73 percent fewer emissions than flying? Thus, this makes Amtrak the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation.

Due to that reason, Amtrak provides a countrywide rail network that connects more than 500 locations across 46 states, the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces via over 21,300 miles of track.

The 3 Main Factors Determining How Fast An Amtrack Train Will Go

The three main contributors that will determine the speed of your next Amtrack train journey, let’s dive deeper. I call these the three T’s.

  • Trains (well actually locomotives)
  • Tracks
  • Traffic

Trains (well actually Locomotives)

Amtrak has three types of locomotives across the country, let’s have a look at their top speeds.

  • Diesel Locomotives – The high majority of the Amtrak fleet are diesel locomotives. Diesel engines are reliable and efficient. They are great for pulling huge weights of passenger and especially freight on minimal fuel. The most popular is the GE P42DC – General Electric Genesis with a max speed of 110mph. Amtrak has over 180 of these locomotives in it’s fleet.
  • Diesel-Electric Locomotives – Amrak Diesel-Electric locomotives are used primarily on the Empire Corridor. The most popular model also from G.E Genesis is the P32AC-DM.These operate the majority of the time as a pure diesel locomotive. However, once the trains arrive at New York, Penn Station, they switch to electric. These trains can also hit a max speed of 110mph
  • Electric Locomotives – Aside from the Acela Express, which we mentioned above Amtrak has another 67 electric locomotives. These models, Siemans Aprinter ACS-64 can reach a top speed of 125 mph!

Now let’s get on to the Tracks, not literally please….

how fast do amtrak trains go

Tracks

The U.S has nearly 140,000 miles of railroad, track! This is the largest freight system in the world. A major point of importance here is that U.S railroads are privately owned, therefore maintenance and improvements are reliant on the railroad owner.
This is both good and bad. Rail, as an industry has one of the highest levels of infrastructure investment but still, tracks need to be maintained and replaced. Maintenance, redirection and replacement all inhibit the speed of Amtrak Trains.

But, what is the main reason inhibiting how fast an Amtrak train will go… read on.

Traffic

Traffic is by far the number one reason that Amtrak trains are delayed and that their speed is slowed. Amtrak operates on around 22,000 miles of track of which the majority are freight railroads. So you guessed it, freight trains slow down Amtrak trains.
By law, Amtrak passenger trains have right of way & often this is abided by. Nevertheless, often it is not! It is very common for an Amtrak train to either get stuck behind a slow freight train or stop completely waiting for one to cross.

So how fast can an Amtrak train go is entirely different to how fast DO Amtrak trains go 🙂 Read on….

So, How Fast Do Amtrak Trains Go

Nearly 85,700 passengers ride more than 300 Amtrak trains on an average day.

It is America’s only high-speed intercity passenger rail provider that is capable of reaching speeds of up to 150 mph (241 kph) on existing infrastructure.

As a matter of fact, over half of Amtrak trains travel at speeds above 100 mph (160 kph).

In addition to that, you can choose from their three variety of accommodation, including a coach, business, and sleeper.

That is actually how fast Amtrak trains go! This means that you’ll never be late to your appointments if you travel using Amtrak trains. However that’s what Amtrak says. But let’s look at some statistics…

If Amtrak Is Fast, Are They On Time?

Trains in general have an interesting reputation. If you live in the U.S, you’ve most probably experienced a delayed Amtrak train. It could be from the weather, a mechanical issue, sometimes there is no explanation.

If you live in Switzerland & use their amazing train system, you would likely have NEVER experienced a delayed train! Well according to lenews.ch Swiss train punctuality has slipped, from 92.6% down to 91.9%!

That means that 91.9% of trains are on time!!Now, let’s compare that to Amtrak!

Amtrak talk about (OTP), On Time Performance. It is basically the the percentage of customers on an intercity passenger rail train who arrive at there destination no longer than 15 minutes late.

With that being said, according to Amtrak’s 2021 Annual report only 58.7% of passengers arrived on time!

Speed Is Important, But So Is Safety & Innovation

Transportation technology innovations are strongly determined by three requirements: efficiency, convenience, and safety. All of which are met by Amtrak.

Therefore, Amtrak is the first railroad to receive a five-year certification by The Emergency Management Accreditation Program. This accredits emergency management in organizations. It honors Amtrak’s capacity to bring employees, resources, and communications from various agencies and organizations together in advance and incase ofen emergency.

Amtrak trains cover 72 percent of all miles traveled on rails owned by other railroads, known as the “host railways.” They range from huge, publicly listed corporations to small, privately-held businesses to state and municipal governments in the United States or Canada.

With taking the above into account, this explains the majority if Amtrak delays. The largest contributing factor to delays is freight trains sharing the same railroad. They are slow and long and take time to pass, even though passenger trains are meant to have priority.

Conclusion – How Fast Do Amtrak Trains Go?

So know you the answer to “how fast do Amtrak trains go” They can go up to 150mph on an Acela train if is on the correct tracks, but ofter the average speed is well below 100mph.

One great thing about train travel is that it gives you time to think & just be. Therefore I wish you many safe, enjoyable & hopefully on time train journeys.

Our website is here to spread knowledge, answer questions & connect with other train enthusiasts.