Coronavirus vs. NYC: Acela as an ambulance?

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Wednesday, April 8, 2020

It’s apparent that New York City’s hospital system has been overrun by COVID-19. State and federal officials are converting a convention center and a U.S. Navy hospital ship into overflow beds. New York is also one of the few major cities in the nation that is well connected to the region with high-speed trains. I’d like to think that it’s time to put some of those trains to work to move stabilized patients to other cities and other hospitals that are under less stress.


In France, some of the world-famous TGV fast trains have been converted to spacious ambulances to move COVID-19 patients out of some of the most affected regions to areas that are not hit hard. Ambulances pull up to the trains and unload. The trains haul patients and staff in comfort and safety.


Amtrak’s Acela between Boston and Washington, D.C., offers speed and space. Perhaps our own fast trains could take pressure off New York City healthcare providers. There are logistical issues, of course. How and where to load? What cities can accept the sick? What hospitals are willing to take these patients? All of those issues would have to be resolved in advance.


I’m not surprised the Europeans are utilizing their trains in the fight against COVID-19. Passenger trains are a part of daily life. They’re often the first choice for transportation. I’m not surprised that Americans haven’t put the Acela to work in our own battle against the virus. Even in the northeast, where railroading is still a part of the culture, the industry isn’t top of mind. Here’s another problem where the railroad can be a part of the solution.

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