Amtrak Cascades will be the first Amtrak-branded service in the country to feature new “Airo” trainsets in 2026, which are part of a larger national Amtrak procurement. On Thursday, the Washington State Department of Department (WSDOT) and Amtrak unveiled of a suite of snazzy new trainset renderings and videos showing the interior and exteriors of the future trainsets. Manufactured by Siemens Mobility, the modern coaches will offer greater comfort and amenities to passengers with panoramic windows, more table seating, USB ports and individual power outlets, and even seatback tablet holders.
The $7.3 billion national purchase order is largely funded by the Federal Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act passed by Congress last year. More than 70 trainsets will be procured, replacing nearly 40% of Amtrak’s fleet by the early 2030s. Trainsets will used on Amtrak’s popular Northeast Corridor and state-sponsored intercity routes.
“As we invest in the future, Amtrak is leading the way with a new era of rail,” Amtrak President Roger Harris said in a statement introducing the Airo. “Our new trains will transform the Amtrak experience with significant environmental benefits, a progressive design and world-class amenities.”
Following yesterday’s announcement, Amtrak put out a brief video showing a standard Airo trainset in motion and offering an inside look.
Siemens Mobility, a German-based manufacturer, is building the Airo trainsets in Sacramento, California. The Airo class of trainsets is a special Amtrak brand name and variant of Siemens’ popular “Venture” series for the North American market. Florida’s Brightline, Canada’s Via Rail, and Amtrak Midwest are already using Venture trainsets in regular service.
Eight new Airo trainsets and two new diesel locomotives will be delivered in 2026 for the Amtrak Cascades service. Each trainset will come with eight coaches in a two-class configuration for Coach and Business while maintaining cafe car and baggage service. Trainsets will be able to carry more than 300 passengers each. Amtrak Cascades also has eight Siemens SC-44 Charger diesel-electric locomotives already in service, which will eventually be redeployed to the new trainsets as needed.
The Siemens trains do have a top speed of 125 miles per hour but the corridor that Amtrak Cascades operates on is currently limited to a top speed of 79 miles per hour under federal regulations. So trains’ top speed won’t be realized until further upgrades to tracks are made. Nevertheless, the Airo ride experience for Amtrak Cascades passengers will be very similar to the route’s current Series 8 Talgo trainsets, produced by the Spanish manufacturer of the same name, despite lacking natural tilting technology for curves. Travel times should also be similar.
The new trainsets will get an updated Amtrak Cascades paint job prominently featuring Mount Rainier and Mount Hood, representing Washington and Oregon where the service runs. The brand’s iconic evergreen and mocha color scheme will also be a hallmark of the updated design.
WSDOT and Amtrak provided additional details on Thursday about Airo experience, including that:
- Bathrooms will have touchless controls for better sanitation;
- Seating will be more ergonomic and feature large tray tables, tablet and water bottle holders, and cushioned headrests in addition to personal technology ports;
- Coaches will maintain free WiFi and see enhanced lighting systems;
- The cafe car will be completely revamped with a sleeker modern design and offer a Northwest-style food and beverage menu; and
- Trains will have ample capacity for bikes with space in every coach and the baggage car.
Passengers will see a huge leap in digital technology enhancements and accessibility with the Airo trainsets. Overhead digital screens will be located in coach aisleways and doorway thresholds providing details like train origin and destination, specific coach information, the next station, and arrival times. Additional digital screens will be located directly above passengers capable of indicating their destination, but it is still unclear if a new reservation system will be deployed. For better accessibility, new automated steps will allow for easier access to station platforms. Some platforms on the Amtrak Cascades corridor are fairly low and will be raised to a similar level as platforms at Seattle’s King Street Station prior to debut of the new trainsets.
For now, Amtrak Cascades will continue to feature the Amtrak inter-city workhorse Horizon coaches and Talgo 8s. Staffing levels have kept corridor service fairly anaemic with three daily Seattle-Portland roundtrips (two of those roundtrips are extended to Eugene) and one daily Seattle-Vancouver, British Columbia roundtrip. Amtrak Coast Starlight and Empire Builder also provide limited additional service on parts of the corridor. Eventually, Amtrak Cascades is supposed to provide six daily Seattle-Portland roundtrips and two daily Seattle-Vancouver, BC roundtrips when staffing allows.
Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.