Tuesday, April 03, 2007

350 mph. On a train. In France.

Can you imagine? Yesterday a train in France flew at 350 miles per hour.

Here's a story on the record-breaking run.

There's a huge market for high-speed trains, particularly since China is smart enough to invest in high-speed rail instead of just airports and highways (as a huge hedge against rising oil prices). California officials were in France along with Chinese officials to check out the product.

Can you imagine shooting in a 300 mph train in the United States? Maybe between Chicago and New York City -- take that 800 mile trip in, what? Three hours by train? From the Loop to Manhattan in three hours. Make it four with intermediate stops. Even five. It's a five hour trip from the Loop to Manhattan right now. And given how much oil airplanes burn, and how much coal and nuclear power we have in the United States, it makes a lot of sense to start using home-grown energy to power intercity travel instead of foreign oil.

The barrier to high-speed rail isn't economic or technical. It's political. We haven't figured out how to price or fund travel correctly yet. We don't include the cost of oil to the nation in the price of oil to users. When we figure that out, much more investment in passenger rail will follow.


Blogger Christopher Parker said...

I agree that travel pricing is wacked, but there is also the issue of financial risk, which is high in the travel business. It's probable, even with current travel pricing, that a high speed rail line from Chicago to New York would make money enough to cover the costs of it's investment. But will it? That's a mighty big investment for such an uncertain bet. Especially one that is so dependent on the political winds that could favor competition, erect environmental barriers or let nimby's control the process.

1:13 PM  

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