For decades, the Federal Railroad Administration had effectively banned modern European trains from American mainline rail networks. European and Asian manufacturers have been slimming down their rolling stock for years to improve performance — energy efficiency, braking and acceleration, even track and train maintenance — while U.S. transit agencies were stuck with bulked-up versions of sleek European cars, weighted down and otherwise modified to meet FRA regulations. The Acela, on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, was perhaps the most notorious victim of the old rules. David Gunn once called it a "high-velocity bank vault" for its bulky design, and many attributed its maintenance woes to its untested design, customized to meet U.S. safety regulations. But every commuter and intercity train has to comply with the rules, and most suffer, to one degree or another, from high costs and poor performance. But not for much longer. Beginning in 2015, regulators and manufacturers expect the FRA to allow modern European designs on tracks throughout the country, running side by side with heavy freight at all times of day. There will be no special signaling requirements for trains purchased under the new rules, although a separate requirement for more advancing anti-collision signaling, called positive train control, is set to kick in around the same time.
They do intercity rail much better in Europe.