US Fast Trains Progress


The US is moving ahead with the planned high speed trains, championed by President Obama.

The country’s transportation secretary announced the first-ever uniform technical standards for the manufacture of high-speed intercity passenger rail cars, a development that will enhance the ability of U.S. manufacturers to compete in what is set to become a burgeoning industry.

“As part of the Obama Administration’s focus on maximizing manufacturing opportunities, these first-ever uniform standards will provide an unprecedented opportunity for manufacturers in the U.S. – from rails to wheel bearings, to final assembly – to build a strong, stable manufacturing base,” said Secretary LaHood.

He said that the uniform standard creates a level playing field and economies of scale based on a common set of designs and technical requirements allowing U.S. based manufacturers to more effectively compete.  Fostering healthy economic competition will drive down costs for rail owners and operators and the traveling public.  Further, maintenance and repair costs will be lower because of lower parts acquisition costs.  And, training can be streamlined with just one type of equipment, allowing faster turnaround for repairs.

“This is a milestone in the history of rail transportation,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo.  “These standardized bi-level passenger rail cars will be able to operate nationwide and are compatible with existing equipment. A common design also makes it easier to train maintenance personnel, stock parts and perform repairs, which reduces costs.”

The double-decker coach, dining, baggage, and business class passenger rail cars will travel between 127k an hour and up to 354k.

US government officials say 95% of passenger travel in America is made by cars, motorcycles and trucks.

Cities that recently won government funding for their high speed passenger rail projects include Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati, Ohio and Battle Creek, Michgan and  others along the Detroit to Chicago route.

The biggest funding was for projects in Florida and California to Tampa and Orlando with 270 kilometres an hour trains and Los Angeles and San Francisco with trains running up to 321ks.




  1. karl says:

    How much IS that federal high-speed rail funding? It’s probably a large-sounding sum - until you realise they have 300 million people, so its not much per capita… sometimes the US numbers that Obama’s government is promising on alternative modes don’t sound so large after that check.

    Still, it sounds good that they are doing something - after all, you gotta start somewhere.

  2. karl says:

    Thanks. That kinda shows what I meant:

    So that is about 11 billion in NZ money. 11,000,000,000 dollars.

    The US have 310,000,000 people, meaning in this project, the feds will spend NZ35 per person on high-speed rail. If New Zealand spent the same per capita amount, we would be spending 142 million on high speed rail. What did the New Lynn Trench cost? 300 million?

    Now as I said - 11 billion may be a useful start, and is probably enough to get a few discrete projects funded. But as I suspected, it is a pittance compared to their whole country’s needs and potential. And not exactly a funding level we should dream of here.

    Sorry to be so dismissive, but money talks. Or not.

  3. Nick R says:

    You have to consider it as seed money to get the first few lines operational. If the HSR takes off in the states like it has in Europe then it will end up making money hand over fist and the private sector will scramble to complete the proposed network themselves.

    $142 million on high(er) speed rail would go a long way in the upper North Island. Based on the costings of the Victorian Regional Fast Rail project that could buy us about eight new trainsets (at $8 million each) and about 200km of upgraded track, signalling and crossings. That would allow for a Waikato connection each way every hour plus three return trains to Tauranga and Rotorua a day, all going up to 160km/h.

  4. karl says:

    Nick - don’t those lines carry freight during the day? I.e. would we not need to create dedicated tracks to run faster trains (even at 160 km/h) that don’t fit in with the freight scheduling? That would be much more costly, I presume. Plus there’s the question of what is fast rail. To me its a TGV at 200-plus km/h.

    But yes, I agree - demonstrator projects are useful. I am just a bit cynical about big announcements which then turn out to be a lot smaller when you see them in context. I’d suggest that Kiwirail concentrate on upgrading the network for freight at the moment, that will have incidential benefits for any future intercity trains.

  5. Nick R says:

    The Victorian lines in question also carry a lot of freight and are mostly single tracked, thats why I picked that project as a benchmark. Likewise in Queensland the QR tilt trains do 160km/h on (upgraded) single track lines that are mostly used by freight and still have lots of level crossings and the like.

    I did say fast(er) rail rather than High Speed Rail. Internationally I think the definition of high speed rail starts at around 250km/h, becuase those are the speeds where you start to need dedicated track, much wider curves and grades, full grade separation and in cab signalling. What we could do in NZ fairly easily would be called ‘faster normal rail’ I guess.


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