TAMPA — Amtrak will add new sleeper, diner and baggage-crew dormitory cars on the Silver Star’s New York-Tampa-Miami route by 2015, with some equipment possibly entering service as early as next summer.
Amtrak officials said Thursday the first units of 130 single-level long-distance passenger rail cars are nearing completion and will begin testing this winter.
The $298.1 million order with CAF USA’s Elmira, N.Y., plant will add 25 sleeping cars, 25 diners, 25 baggage/dormitory and 55 baggage cars to Eastern United States routes.
The purchase is a boost for Amtrak’s long-distance concept, which posted a 27 percent nationwide ridership gain since 2006 to 4.8 million passengers in fiscal 2013, when Amtrak reported a record 31.6 million passengers nationwide.
“The long-distance routes represent the most attractive business improvement opportunity for Amtrak and the new equipment will help us achieve cost reductions, more efficiency, revenue growth and better service,” Amtrak board member Tom Carper said in a release.
Amtrak ridership on nearly all long-distance trains was ahead of last August, the railroad’s latest report said.
Ridership was especially strong on the Silver Star, up 8 percent from a year ago, after months of declines due in part to track work delays, the report stated.
The new long-distance cars will replace and supplement the existing fleet and allow cars built in the 1940s and 1950s to be retired.