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High-speed trains in the US: High-speed trains start slowly

High-speed trains in the US: High-speed trains start slowly

In America, high-speed trains are supposed to replace airplanes and cars. Target Group of Railways: Youth. But projects are stalled and costs are spiraling.

Broadline West wants to connect Los Angeles and Las Vegas by rail. But it is expensive Photo: Panthermedia/Imago

Washington taz | It once made the United States a unified country and accelerated its rise as a world power. Today, however, train travel in America is more of a hassle than a true substitute for cars and airplanes. The only exception is the northeast of the country, but there’s plenty to do here too. One solution that is finding more supporters, especially in times of climate change, is called high-speed trains.

Full cycle routes are deceptive: climate-friendly and people-friendly mobility is far from ordinary. In Germany, for example, the share of transport in CO2-Emissions have risen from 13 to almost 20 percent in the last 30 years -More freight on the road, more private transport. But there are exciting new concepts for bikes, buses, trains and ships with e-mobility and new forms of sharing. or even more liable for environmental damage. Here, taz authors present ideas that have already been tried.

There are many plans to make America the nation of train drivers again. But only one project is under construction. Another is about to break ground and nearly half a dozen others are still in the planning stages. Still, after so many missed opportunities, experts believe now is the right time to invest heavily in technology.

“More and more people understand that cars and airplanes are damaging the planet. So people are looking for alternatives that don’t harm the environment. Many young people have a different relationship with cars and don’t even own a vehicle. Above all, it is the changed consciousness of this younger generation that makes high-speed rail a reality in America,” said the president of the American High-Speed ​​Rail Association. Andy Kunz said in an interview with Tass.

Looking at the current railway situation in the country, there is much less positive to report. Amtrak, a state-owned company, operates almost all long-distance trains in the United States. But the route network is very thin and the prices are very high. If you want to travel by train from New York to Los Angeles, you need good seats above all else. A fast connection is rated at 68 hours, assuming no delays. A 2nd class seat requires a minimum payment of USD 320. If you want a sleeping box, it’s over $1,500.

Flights are often very cheap

Instead, it costs The cheapest one-way plane ticket between the two coastal cities is less than $200 and the flight time is less than 6 hours. The train will compete only in the densely populated Northeastern United States. But here too many people still prefer to fly. Between Washington, New York and Boston, the state-owned company Amtrak currently operates the only train in the country that would partially deserve the name high-speed rail.

The express train called “Acela” will run at a speed of 240 kilometers per hour on narrow sections of the line. Since this is only possible on certain parts of the route, the travel time between Washington and New York is reduced by half an hour to less than 3 hours. In 2009, the US According to an analysis by the Railway Regulatory Authority, a stretch between 100 and 600 miles connecting two major metros is best suited for high-speed rail.

The only expressway currently under construction is under construction in California. The cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles are to be joined there. Darshan promises a journey time of 2 hours 40 minutes. But rising costs led to massive delays. Only 119 of the 500 miles are currently under construction.

“We have so far invested about $9 billion in high-speed rail in this country. By comparison, China has invested 1.2 trillion to expand its high-speed network. In the last 70 years, we have invested our money in road expansion and air transport and left out the railways,” complained Kunz.

“The train to nowhere,” he joked.

Due to lack of funding, only the section between Merced and Bakersfield in central California is currently completed. This section is often referred to maliciously in the US media as the “train to nowhere”. The first section of the route should be operational by 2033. The entire line between San Francisco and Los Angeles is expected to cost nearly $128 billion, nearly $100 billion more than the $33 billion originally estimated.

Kyle Simerly, California High Speed ​​Rail Commission

“Costs add up every day. At the same time, climate change and the traffic situation are worsening.

“Costs add up every day. At the same time, climate change and the traffic situation are worsening. That’s why we’re moving forward with the plan to install high-speed rail in America,” said Kyle Simerly of the California High-Speed ​​Rail Commission.

A second large-scale high-speed project in California is expected to get the go-ahead this year. Broadline West is intended to connect the cities of Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Funded mainly with private money, the project’s costs have already risen significantly. Brightline is currently the only private railroad company in the United States.

As of 2018, yellow Brightline trains travel back and forth between Miami and West Palm Beach in South Florida. Last month (opened on September 22nd), customers were able to travel to Orlando. On the newly built line between West Palm Beach and Orlando Airport, the Siemens-built Brightline trains reach speeds of 200 km/h and are therefore on the threshold of high-speed rail.

Biden supports railroads

Similar concepts exist in Texas, the Pacific Northwest, and the US Southeast. U.S. President Joe Biden, known as “Amtrak Joe” during his time in the U.S. Senate, has been a big supporter of railroads for years. The infrastructure bill passed in November 2021 includes $66 billion for rail projects. However, there is no money specifically for expanding high-speed lines.

Andy Kunz, American High Speed ​​Rail Association

“We need to get the ball rolling.”

“We need to get the ball rolling. Once Americans see how fast, convenient and safe high-speed rail is, they will demand such connections across the country,” Kunz said.

Politically, Republicans in particular are opposed to supporting technology with tax dollars. But with the country’s changing climate awareness and increasing road and air traffic congestion, high-speed rail could finally find its place in America. Perhaps something will be done about this this year.