Thursday, November 06, 2008

California High Speed Rail

Well, the votes are in on Proposition 1A - "Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act" and 52% is enough to start the project rolling, perhaps eventually at 200 mph.

This is not the first true high speed rail project mooted in America (the Northeastern Acela program uses existing track, rather like Britain's high speed trains do). Many years ago, during the last oil price crisis of the early 1980s, Texas proposed a system linking Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio with a three axis web centered on somewhere around Smithville. The journey times at 200 mph would have been in excess of an hour from end to end (i.e. Houston to Dallas) but would have been from city center to city center, obviating the need to use airports. The whole idea was far too competitive for the airlines (Southwest Airlines in particular) who lobbied against the plan and ultimately killed it. Many is the time I have sat stuck in Dallas Love Field airport while a thunderstorm raged outside and wondered why the rail project could not have garnered enough support! The concept still lives on this website.

Many high speed rail mockers exist but they soon become converts when visiting France or taking Eurostar under the English Channel. In America it is often said that what California does will be copied across the continent. Maybe by 2100 the nation will be crisscrossed by high speed rail. But that is beginning to sound like Ayn Rand futurism!