Obama Can, How About Us? America Gets $8b High Speed Rail


As we struggle through this week of much pain on Auckland’s struggling but developing rail network, one has to ponder: if only we could join the rest of the world.

Now its’s America getting high-speed rail, thanks to an US$8 billion investment just announced by President Obama.

This will go towards developing a high speed rail service in 13 travel corridors covering 31 states across the country.

US environmentalist Rob McCulloch, said that, overall, once built out, a national high-speed network would cut oil use by 125 million barrels a day.

The president said the move had three goals:

  • to improve existing rail lines to bring faster reliable services
  • to take cars off the road reducing congestion, cutting pollution and increasing productivity
  • to develop trains that will go from 272kilometres an hour to 370kph.

We get all of this, but is this next question from Obama to his audience, one that we will ever hear our ministers asking? We should.

“Let me ask you a question:  How can we, the leading nation in the world, be in a position where China, Spain, France — and name all the other countries who have rail systems that are far superior to ours?

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s about time we move.  But this time — but this time, we’re not only going to be providing a better way to transport; we’re going to be taking cars off of congested highways, reducing carbon emissions, and saving billions of dollars in human productivity lost just sitting in traffic jams, as studies point out.”

And the US transportation secretary,writing on his blog, said:

“We need an expansive, safe and energy efficient rail transportation network. We need to generate economic development. We need to reposition our infrastructure for the 21st century. The particular investments we’re making today-they make sense.

“We’re connecting cities that are too close for efficient air travel but-with the highways connecting these cities nearly choked beyond capacity-too far for productive road travel. Cities like St. Louis and Chicago.
“We know that people already want to travel between these cities; we’re here to begin making that downtown-to-downtown travel significantly easier, faster, and more productive.”

And we can’t even get a Hamilton to Auckland rail service seriously considered.
Not all states got what they want or all they want - but it’s a big start and a pointer to the future. More funds are promised in five years and there may also be some private investment.

California will get US$2.34 billion for a high-speed line between San Diego and Sacramento, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area by 2026.

A high-speed rail system between Tampa and Orlando got US$1.25 billion for the project and is considered the poster child for how rail needs to look throughout the US.

States receiving more than $150 million in federal funds include Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and New York. Only the Florida and California lines, however, will reach speeds of more than 241 kph – the traditional threshold to be considered high-speed rail.

This news report (after the commercial!) from CBS News, although it’s mostly about jobs:


Read Obama’s speech or watch the speech (18 minutes) here
What states got what
How high speed rail will improve the US environment
US Transportation secretary’s blog: ” I have looked forward to this day for a long time.




  1. Matt L says:

    A country the size of America is putting US$8bil ($11.3bil) into rail and here we are, a small country at the other end of the world putting $11bil into roads.

    I personally would love to see a dedicated high speed rail link from Auckland to Hamilton then later to Tauranga. This should be completely independent of the current network. This could get people from the Auckland CBD to Hamilton in less than 1 hour, far faster than car or plane (when you take in time around the airport)

  2. curtissd says:

    Why are we building so many roads for antisocial cars? High speed rail - perfect! First step Auckland to Hamilton. It’s about 130 k’s between the two. I don’t know how many times the train would have to go slow (city, bridges,…) but 130 k’s divided by 272 kph (as mentioned above) = 28 minutes. How long does it take to get from Howick to Britomart at the moment in a car or public transport? Hamilton would be closer in travel time….

  3. rtc says:

    It really is a joke that 1-2 billion is being spent on a holiday highway and yet NZ’s two biggest cities have completely inadeguate commuter connections between the two of them.

  4. Jeremy Harris says:

    The only corridors viable in NZ is Auckland -> Hamilton and in the future Hamilton -> Tauranga, Hamilton -> Rotorua…


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