By SAMUEL BLATCHFORD
Capital News Service
LANSING –Amtrak has updated coaches for Midwest routes, including 19 Venture cars for the three routes in Michigan.
In Michigan, the railway company offers the Blue Water, which runs between Chicago and Port Huron; the Wolverine, which runs between Chicago and Detroit; and the Pere Marquette, which runs between Chicago and Grand Rapids.
The new Venture cars have been in use for a few months, said Marc Magliari, Amtrak’s public relations manager.
“These (Venture) cars are a Siemens design that are widely used in Europe. It’s a proven design with some modifications,” said Ann Arbor resident Clark Charnetski, a 50-year member of the Livonia-based rail advocacy group Michigan Association of Rail Passengers.
The cars are getting good reviews, Charnetski said. However, there are some complaints.
“The biggest complaint about it is that the seats are a little different than what Americans are used to,” he said. “It’s more of a European type. (The seats) don’t recline as much and are a little firmer. But they are beautiful cars.”
The restrooms are larger and the aisles are wider to accommodate wheelchair users, Charnetski said.
As for seating, there will be at least 70 coach seats, 52 business class seats and 30 cafe seats for routes with cafe cars.
The Venture cars replace the older Horizon and Amfleet cars previously used on the Michigan routes.
“The cars that have been delivered so far are coach (cars) and a few business class cars and the cafe cars will be the last to be delivered. Once that happens, all of the Midwest corridor trains will be operating with the Siemens Venture cars,” he said.
Siemens is a German based conglomerate with offices in the U.S. It is the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe.
Federal funds were used to purchase the Siemens Venture cars at $238 million, which translates to $2.7 million per car.
The Venture cars feature new amenities not seen on previous cars.
The Venture cars have more modern amenities, such as larger bathrooms, free WI-FI and antennas on every car, fold-down dining trays, power USB ports on all the seats, reading lamps for each seat, triple capacity for bike storage and increased capacity for luggage.
Amtrak has some upgrades for passengers with mobility issues. The cars include wider aisles, wheelchair storage and fully accessible toilets.
According to Michael Frezell, Michigan Department of Transportation’s deputy communications director, the Wolverine consists of five Venture cars on two frequencies and four Venture cars on one frequency. The Blue Water consists of five Venture cars and the Pere Marquette consists of four Venture cars.