According to the specification the new trains will need to be "capable of meeting or exceeding current Acela trip-times on the existing NEC infrastructure," and provide a 40% increase in seating capacity.

The tender will only be open to bidders who have already supplied trains capable of operating at more than 257km/h to other operators. The closing date for expressions of interest is October 1.

Amtrak had previously planned to tender the contract jointly with California High-Speed Rail Authority, which requires up to 70 high-speed trains over a 15-year period, but the two parties decided last month to launch separate tenders due to significant differences in the specifications for the two fleets.

The Acela Express fleet is struggling to cope with rapidly rising demand. Amtrak says Acela Express ridership has increased by 7% in the last year and trains are often fully-booked, particularly at peak times. Daily ridership has exceeded 14,000 passengers 25 times in the current financial year, which started on October 1, compared with five times in the whole of the 2013 financial year.