New U.S. High Speed Rail Association Presents Network Plan

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Organization envisions 17,000-mile network stretching across the country, but its phasing and route plans need work.

More than any time in U.S. history, there is strong, bipartisan support for public investment in expanded rail networks. The momentum behind what may be the country’s next major national project is developing quickly, with states recently applying for more than $100 billion worth of planning and construction programs in corridors throughout the continental 48. The U.S. House’s approval last week of $4 billion in allocations for high-speed rail in fiscal year 2010 alone suggests that the stimulus’ inclusion of $8 billion for train service improvements was only the first step in a decades-long transportation program whose costs may stretch into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

The new U.S. High Speed Rail Association will lobby in Washington for the full implementation of what may be a fifty year project. Run

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Reduced Travel Times Require High Speeds

Perhaps Amtrak President Joseph Boardman needs a lesson. Here’s what he told the Illinois House Railroad Industry Committee yesterday, according to the Chicago Tribune:

“It’s really not about the speed. It’s about reduced travel times and more frequency.”

I hate to point out the obvious — something I’ve had to do in the past — but reduced travel times can only be achieved through (a) reducing the distance traveled, or (b) increasing the speed of trains. Since I’m assuming Mr. Boardman wasn’t suggesting that customers simply start taking shorter trips, the only way you can reduce travel times is by increasing speed. So it really is about the speed. Sorry, Mr. Boardman.

Mr. Boardman used this argument to inform the committee that it was infeasible to build true high-speed rail (that is, “HSR-Express,” as we’re calling 150+ mph service these days) at the scale needed for the United States because of

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U.K.'s High Speed Two Fleshed Out

With support from Tories and Labour, project construction is virtually guaranteed

The United Kingdom, despite its intense population concentration and relatively straight-shot connection between its biggest cities, has yet to invest in a major high-speed program, unlike its peers in France, Spain, and Germany. Beginning late last year, however, the Conservative Party, under leader David Cameron and shadow Transportation Minister Teresa Villiers, began pressuring the Labour-controlled government to begin planning a high-speed rail link between London and Manchester, via Birmingham, as a replacement for the planned third runway at Heathrow airport. Plans to route the line through the airport to allow easy connections to flights were incorporated into the proposal almost immediately.

Though in January Labour did approve the runway at Heathrow as a way to relieve the significant congestion there, the U.K.’s ruling party has come to see a high-speed rail program as politically advantageous –

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World high-speed rail kilometers by country

Route kilometers for high-speed rail systems (240+ km/h), all countries

Route kilometers for high-speed rail systems (240+ km/h), excluding China

View

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In France, a Truly Low-Cost High-Speed Rail Option

» To convince even more passengers to take the train, the SNCF national rail carrier plans to offer very cheap tickets.

France’s SNCF national rail service has, since the introduction of the TGV in 1981, held to the belief that fast trains should not be segregated to serve only higher-paying passengers. As a result, fast trains have replaced all slow-speed service on most long-distance travel throughout the country; passengers are able to take advantage of fare deals that allow them to journey between cities hundreds of miles apart at €25 or less, as long as they book in advance.

This dedication to opening up speedy trains to people across the income spectrum is unique compared to most other European and Asian countries. In Germany, for instance, train service between major cities is often available at two speeds — fast Intercity-express and slower InterCity, at very different prices. In the

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  • by Yonah Freemark
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