Thursday, January 22, 2009

21st century is the age of the train

The Independent has a great article highlighting the rail boom currently underway in Europe - highlighting the thousands of new kilometers of high-speed rail currently under construction, as well as various new services that are being introduced to replace high-volume airline corridors.

In Europe, they don't just have High-Speed Rail, they have international rail service that crosses borders!

Six new high-speed routes:
  • Amsterdam-Brussels: present journey time, five hours five minutes; projected new time, three hours 36 minutes.
  • Rome-Milan: old time, four hours 30 minutes; new time, three hours 30 minutes.
  • London-Cologne: present time, four hours 45 minutes; projected new time, four hours.
  • London-Berlin: present time, 10 hours; projected new time, eight hours 30 minutes.
  • London-Milan: old time, 16 hours; new time, 12 hours.
  • London-Geneva: old time, 11 hours; new time, seven hours.

In fact, even Air France is getting into the action, as it plans on debuting a new 220 mph AGV rail service between Paris and Amsterdam.

Stop the trains! 220 mph?!

Yes, Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore. The Europeans have figured out how to offer essentially zero-carbon transportation systems: high-speed electric rail lines.

In countries like France, most of the electricity generation is done by nuclear power, which has zero GHG output.


On the other hand, California did pass its $10 billion bond to fund the first part of its planned high-speed rail network. And with a country this large and spread out, it will take the construction of lots of regional systems for it to really work - the Midwest & ChicagoLand area and New England are excellent candidates. The Acela service has certainly shown that almost-HSR service can make a lot of money (its Amtrak's cash cow).


And let's not forget that Japan is planning on building a $45 billion, 600-km long Maglev line between Tokyo and Osaka. It will be financed by one of Japan's private rail companies, and is expected to run a profit. This is a video of the test track, where the train gets up to 500 km/h (300 mph):


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