Another day of frustration over Acela delays

Amtrak booked Acela passengers at South Station onto slower regional service.
Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff
Amtrak booked Acela passengers at South Station onto slower regional service.

Brian Howard, who lives outside of Philadelphia, was swept up by a spirit of adventure when he booked his trip home from a business meeting in Boston.

A friend encouraged him to take the train back, and the suggestion got the best of him.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to take the Acela. It’s so wonderful, it’s so fun,’ ” Howard, 52, recalled. Now, he said, he knows better: “I’m not doing that again!”


As a Connecticut power outage shuttered service of the swanky Amtrak Acela train between New York and Boston, Big Apple-bound passengers in South Station on Saturday piled into the decidedly less-classy Northeast Regional train — an ordeal that garnered mixed reviews from customers.

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The power outage, which occurred Wednesday, brought the Acela to a halt Thursday, and was continuing through the weekend. A post on Amtrak’s website Saturday said it remained unclear whether service would resume on Monday.

In Acela’s stead, passengers were automatically booked on the regional service, which makes more frequent stops along the route.

Howard acknowledged that “it could have been a lot uglier,” he said. He was glad, at least, that he was automatically re-booked.

“It was surprisingly easy — after about 20 minutes of being on hold and a beer and a half, I was pretty well set,” Howard said.


Others feared the relative slowness of the Northeast Regional.

Don Jones, 41, who lives on Long Island, said he knew that slowness well — especially after taking a train from Newark to Boston on Thursday that had significant delays. At multiple points during the trip, he said, the train had to stop to switch from electric power to all-diesel power and back — a process that made the 3½-hour ride take six.

“I’m hoping it’s going to be a lot smoother on the way home,” Jones said.

Though he said he was re-booked promptly and without hassle, he was annoyed that Amtrak’s e-mail did not explain the reason for the widespread cancellations. And if he had known the train would have taken so long to reach Boston, he would have canceled his reservation and booked a flight.

“I just rolled with it,” Jones said. “I had already expected it was going to be a disaster.”


Sam Clark, 33, who lives in Kendall Square, said he was pleased with the customer service he received from Amtrak. He had originally booked a seat on the regional train down to New York on Saturday morning, with the plan to ride the Acela on Sunday evening for his return trip, and was unperturbed when he received an e-mail informing him that he would automatically be re-booked on a regional train departing at the same time.

He didn’t much mind the difference between the regional train and the Acela, he said; he was heading to New York City for a friend’s birthday, not for a business meeting, so he wasn’t pressed for time.

The only minor inconveniences: The food and the Wi-Fi service on the Acela, he said, are markedly better.

“I’m just hoping the train runs on time,” Clark said.

Melissa Mashburn of Newbury is a frequent user of the Northeast Regional, and she had a different concern from her re-booked counterparts: Would all the Acela refugees make her train too crowded?

“It’s often quite crowded,” Mashburn said, “but at least I have a reserved seat.”

Martine Powers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.