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Amtrak's High-Speed Gamble

In just four months, the nation's first high-speed passenger train is scheduled to begin service. At speeds of around 150 mph it will travel between Boston, New York and Washington, DC.

But right now, reports Correspondent Rick Sallinger of CBS station KCNC-TV, its route is through an empty part of southern Colorado.

It's called the Acela Express, and it's now being tested on a 13-mile trip to nowhere. But from this Colorado track, Amtrak hopes its future will be born.

Amtrak spokesman Jim Waddington says, "We're going after the airlines with the shuttle ... with a 3-hour travel time between Boston and New York, we expect to grow our business."

It will even seem much like a plane.

There will be seating for 304 passengers in first- and business-class sections, restrooms familiar to airline travelers, and downtown-to-downtown trip times competitive with the airline shuttles.

The New York-to-Boston run will be cut by an hour-and-a-half to three hours. New York-to-Washington in two-and-a-half hours; that's half an hour faster than now.

And if you want to hold business meetings while rolling along at 150 mph, there will be 32 conference tables located throughout the train.

It's being billed as the world's first high-speed tilting train. Sensors will determine when it's going into a curve, how steep the bank is, and then command the car to tilt to compensate for it.

Hydraulic jacks will automatically lift the cars. The wheels will remain steady as the body tilts above it.

"We call it the coke-can tes,t where we put a coke can lengthwise on the table and go into a curve and the coke can does not move," says test engineer Rene Meuser.

The first train is expected to be running this December. The cost of saving two hours between Washington and Boston: $2.6 billion. It's a high-stakes project with Amtrak's future on the line.

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