Can America make American railways great again?
From Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump, people have talked infrastructure. There’s no doubt America has the skills to design a state of the art high speed city-to- city North American system that can eventually reach up to 500 mph on some sections and average 300 mph overall? (DC – Chicago in 4 hours). That puts million to work, building new US trains and stock, creating completely new track and routes: tunnels, bridges, flyovers, city-centre to city-centre – hub airport to hub-airport – especially linking our international airports. Potentially LA to Miami in less than l2 hours, Montreal to Dallas in l4, or San Francisco to New York in l5 hours.
If the French can build the TGV (300 mph plus) and China the up to 350 mph Maglev, and Japan the 320 mph Shinkan-sen – why the disgrace of Amtrak, our “rustbelt railroad” - isn’t it time for Detroit to build trains rather than more cars? Time for building rolling stock not short haul planes. America has the skills to re-tool and re-train without Chinese inputs, expertise or investment. The railroad was the great symbol of America’s first expansion and power (l860-l945). It was part of how it became great. It can be a transport affordable by all, useful for all sectors of US society. American engineers can tunnel under the Rockies and Appalachians, the Catskills and the Adirondacks, under the Sierra Nevada – in some case combining road and rail (e.g including car carrying trains) and saving billions in bad weather and snarls. It is less carbon producing than air-travel, and the automobile. It relieves congestion and gridlock in cities – it is a democratic transport system, and has served low
income communities, and non-white cultures for a century. Modest rapid-transport schemes are in place in California and planned for urban areas, in and around Illinois. There have already been some small successes on the West coast and with Acela (still slow by European standards). But full replacement of track and system is the Tennessee Valley project of the new era and re-develops the areas of urban decline from New Jersey to Michigan. It is the real, new deal; the present rail system cannot be fixed by patching up.
The Oil, Airline and automobile lobby still represented in government have held too much sway for sixty years .Rail has been squeezed (including by freight for decades) and with no federal support, it has died in many places. In a country of widely spaced cities like China, such a system is a logical ‘must have’ project, a prestige project. Now it is our chance to renew part of the American dream. It is a no brainer. To bring a continent up to high speed, represents a huge infra-structural project, purchasing land for the totally new federal system alone will cost billions. But investment brings wealth and it’s a vision for the whole 2lst century – and we all gain. If we don’t do it, I’m sure the Chinese would be only too happy to step in, send their experts – and trains – and investment and do it for us (at a cost). But
America can do its own R and I and still use know-how from other countries too (Hungary, Germany, the UK, etc.). The US fell back over half a century in the technology of rail. Now is the time to re-tool the cities, plants - and Lockheed, a 50-year leap into the future – who can deliver or provide Legacy?
That would be a legacy to replace a wall. (Trump, the man who rebuilt America’s railroads:
with high speed all the way to San Diego!)