The dmu proposal offers the certainty of major cost savings combined with a significant improvement in service. DMUs have become the world-wide standard for branch-line and secondary passenger services in the last ten years. They can produce a remarkable improvement in Amtrak’s finances and ridership in Vermont and deeply cut Vermont’s subsidy for the service.
DMUs as a technology offer many advantages:
Ø DMUS reduce fuel expense because of reduced weight and more efficient design. They offer up to a 500% improvement in fuel consumption compared with the use of two conventional diesel engines, as required by the present Amtrak equipment. On a 600-mile round trip from St. Albans to New Haven CT, a DMU set, at a very conservative $1.80 per gallon diesel fuel cost, would save $2,956 per day in fuel costs. In a year, the DMU would save $1,078,940.
Ø Total DMU savings are even greater, because maintenance cost is reduced by tailoring the length of the train to demand and using new cars which require less expensive overhauls. The DMU equipment, if used on a single round-trip daily, will require $693,000 per year for maintenance compared to $2,350,000 for the present Amfleet locomotive-hauled train, a savings of $1,657,000 per year. The Amfleet cars presently in use are 25-30 years old.
Ø Combined, the fuel and maintenance savings for the DMUs on just a single round-trip daily saves $2,735,940 per year.
Ø Compared to the $17,176,415 purchase price for the DMUs, the fuel and maintenance savings alone pay for the cars in only 6.3 years!
Ø DMUs are 75% less noisy than conventional diesel engines.
Ø DMUs produce 72% less pollution than conventional diesels.
Ø DMUs offer greater acceleration, permitting faster and more frequent service on the route. Modern DMUs are fully capable of 70-80 mph operation.
Ø DMUs are fully compliant with current U.S. crash-safety requirements.
Ø DMUs can pull up to two additional unpowered coaches. This allows for expanded passenger capacity without adding another engine, crew or train.
Ø DMUs have been successfully tested in Alaska under the most demanding mountain conditions and on grades much steeper than anywhere in Vermont. DMUs can operate through ice and snow and are much less likely to be delayed by storms than either air or highway transportation.
Ø DMUs reduce station and terminal costs. Platforms can be shorter, maintenance is simplified, and less space is required in yards for service and storage.
Ø New DMUs offer higher standards of passenger comfort. The nearly 30-year old coaches used on the VERMONTER have tiny windows and cramped passenger seats. Contemporary DMUs can be ordered with large picture windows, an efficient on-train café, more spacious seating, and built-in facilities for bikes and skis. This is particularly important on the VERMONTER, since the train no longer has a baggage car.
Ø The operational savings from using DMUs make it practical to add a second round-trip between White River Junction and New Haven. The incremental cost for fuel and maintenance to add this service is only $271,000 per year, but passenger loadings can be expected to soar and more than recover those costs. Amtrak has found repeatedly that more-frequent service dramatically improves train economics. Illinois just added one additional daily train between Chicago and Carbondale. Business grew 61% in the first month. Between Chicago and St. Louis, the addition of two daily trains produced a first month growth of 91% on the route!
Ø A second DMU train each day would restore connections to the Chicago, west coast and Florida Amtrak services, generating 25-30 more passengers per day.
Ø Because of the DMUs faster acceleration, an overall schedule improvement is possible which could allow the VERMONTER to connect at New Haven to Amtrak’s 135 mph ACELA EXPRESS. This would provide schedule reductions of up to a full hour enroute to Washington DC.
Ø The DMUs provide better viewing of the beauty of Vermont with their much larger picture windows. Combined with their more spacious seats and interiors, this will encourage more ridership and further reduce costs.
Ø A two-car DMU can replace a five-car conventional train. At present, Amtrak is forced to pull the equivalent of three empty coaches which are needed only south of New Haven. This would reduce fuel, crew, and maintenance costs.
Ø Additional DMUs could be used to institute service from Burlington to Middlebury, Rutland, Manchester, Bennington and Albany at a fraction of the cost of a locomotive-hauled train. Because of their lighter weight, they can operate at marketable speeds over more lightly-built track, which is exactly what exists on this route. While some upgrading still would be needed, much of this work is completed.
[adopted from testimony by Carl Fowler before the Vermont legislature]