Interstate High Speed Rail – Global Competitors
Other advanced nations are building Interstate High Speed Rail, enhanced commuter rail and Metro Rail an order of magnitude faster than America. They do so because faster passenger rail, when properly implemented, has tremendous societal benefits moving large volumes of people from 1-600 miles in an intermodal passenger transportation system.
Throughout history, transportation advances have accelerated economic growth for cities, regions and nations. In 1811, England pioneered the first practical train service between it’s cities and seaports. In 1863, London built the world’s first subway system. Both transportation advances helped England’s GDP outgrow other nations.
Up to 1820, New York City and Philadelphia were close in population and economic output called Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Then Erie Canal opened in 1821, giving New York City access to larger, faster, cheaper freight volume from the Midwest. By 1840, Erie Canal helped New York City dwarf Philadelphia in population and GDP size. New York City extended its transportation advantage by building the world’s largest Metro Rail and Commuter Rail systems in the early 20th century.
In the 21st century, every advanced and emerging nation competes in the global economy. Millions of people traveling within cities and regional corridors power their economies as much as freight movements. Faster economic and social activity has increased passenger time-sensitivity in every advanced and emerging nation. When travel is delayed due to highway and airport congestion, it taxes their economy. For example in 2019, INRIX analysts said roadway congestion cost the average American 97 hours and $1348 per year.
Global Economic Competitors Fast-Track Passenger Rail Infrastructure
Recognizing the same congestion tax and time-sensitivity factors as America, but with more solution clarity and urgency, Global Economic Competitors accelerated projects to modernize and expand 21st century transportation networks. They gravitate to passenger rail because its the most space-efficient mode to transport mass passenger volume from 1 to 600 miles. Compared to new highway and new airports, passenger rail can also produce a higher Benefit/Cost Ratio from 1 to 600 miles.
Though advanced and emerging nations may weigh some factors differently in their own Benefit/Cost Ratio formula, they are leading to the same conclusion — build more passenger rail as fast as economically and socially prudent. Unlike America’s leadership developing freight rail, airports and the most highway lanes, we follow other nations’ passenger rail conventions. For ease of understanding to Americans, miles per hour (mph) are converted from kilometers per hour (10 kph = 6.213 mph) common elsewhere.
Metro Light Rail/Trams Routes support up to 56 mph (90 kph) Top Speed: They are dedicated electric-powered routes in urban areas; all have roadway and pedestrian crossings, but an increasing number have some tunnels, viaducts and over/underpasses at railroad crossings; they convey 125-300 passengers per train.
Metro Heavy Rail Routes support 62-87 mph (100-140 kph) Top Speed: They are dedicated electric-powered train routes in urban areas; they draw electricity from a 3rd rail; they have over/underpasses, tunnels and viaduct for higher speed, dependability and safety; they convey 400-800 passengers per train.
Commuter Rail Routes support 62-81 mph (100-130 kph) Top Speed: They have many Slow Zones (curves, old bridges & tunnels, railroad crossings, old track switches, inadequate electrical & communication systems); they are shared with freight rail and intercity passenger rail; diesel and diesel-eletric trains run on them; they convey 125-300 passengers per train. Sometimes, they share stations with HSR and Regional Rail.
Regional Rail Routes support 93-118 mph (150-190 kph) Top Speed: They have more over/underpasses, tunnels and viaducts to reduce Slow Zones; their routes are often shared with HSR; though some use diesel-electric trains, most use electric trains powered by from overhead electric wire called “catenary”; they run more frequent and dependable than Commuter Rail; they convey 300-500 passengers per train.
1st Generation HSR Routes support 124-149 mph (200-240 kph) Top Speed: These and faster routes have over/underpasses at all railroad crossings, making them faster, safer and more dependable; these and faster routes support electric trains, but some host 125 mph diesel-electric trains; they often have Slow Zones; they convey 400-600 passengers per train.
2nd Generation HSR Routes support up to 155-174 mph (250-280 kph) Top Speed: They have fewer Slow Zones than 1st Generation HSR Routes; only light weight, aerodynamic HST use their dedicated tracks; better switches, power systems and train control systems enable higher speeds; they typically have 92-97% schedule dependability; they convey 400-800 passengers per train.
3rd Generation HSR Routes support up to 186 mph (300 kph) Top Speed: They are less curvy than 2nd Generation HSR Routes and have smooth rides; though they often share track with Regional Rail in urban area, only light weight, aerodynamic HST use their dedicated high-speed tracks; they have 95-99% schedule dependability and set safety standards for all transportation modes; they convey 600-1200 passengers per train.
4th Generation HSR Routes support up to 249 mph (400 kph) Top Speed: They are less curvy than 3rd Generation HSR Routes and have baby-smooth rides; though they often share track with Regional Rail in urban area, only light weight, very aerodynamic HST use their dedicated high-speed tracks; they have 97-99.9% schedule dependability and set safety standards for all transportation modes; they convey 600-1200 passengers per train.
HSR and Regional Rail also merit special attention for high capacity, space-efficiency and sharing station platforms. They can convey 10-15 trains/hour using land area equivalent to a 2-lane highway. HSR represents the apex of passenger rail for its technical innovations, speed, dependability, safety, comfort and ability to reduce both airport and highway traffic. In the rest of this narrative journey, I lump all generations of High Speed Rail together as “HSR” for group context, but separate them when specificity requires. What Americans would call “Interstate High Speed Rail” other nations call “Intercity High Speed Rail.”
For a deeper dive into passenger rail and trains, see Taxonomy of Rail Routes and Passenger Trains. Taxonomy also explains why the lower Benefit/Cost Ratio of MagLev should prevent American investment in that technology before 2045, if then.
Global Economic Competitor: CHINA
China opened its first 186 mph HSR route 67 miles between Beijing and Tianjin for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. It also opened one 18-mile MagLev line, from Shanghai’s airport to a suburban Shanghai Metro Rail station. China has frozen MagLev investment to focus on HSR expansion.
By 2021, China reached a staggering 24,000 miles of 155-217 mph HSR transporting over 1 billion passengers a year. China continues investing $46 billion/year with the goal of 30,000 HSR miles by 2025 or so. It plans HSR connections to Thailand, India and Turkey by 2035. China’s National HSR System connects to Commuter Rail, Regional Rail and Metro Rail systems in 30 cities at upgraded train stations, generically called “Intermodal Transportation Centers.” At the same time, China built international airports and continues expanding its national tollway-freeway system.
China’s government encourages citizens to buy electric vehicles. It is building solar & wind power faster than any other nation. By 2030, China will interconnect Airports, 1 MagLev, HSR, Regional Rail, Commuter Rail, Metro Heavy Rail and a higher percentage of electric cars on its national tollway-freeway system in the world’s largest Intermodal Passenger Transportation Network. China also plans to anchor a Trans-Asia HSR Network spreading to India, Southeast Asia, North Korea, Russia and Turkey.
Global Economic Competitor: JAPAN
In 1964, Japan launched the first electric HSR system (Shinkansen) operating at 130 mph. In 2020, Shinkansen HSR system has grown to 1718 miles and reaches 186-199 mph Top Speed on several lines. Since Day 1, it has transported over 10 billion passengers through earthquake and typhoon country with zero passenger fatalities. Shinkansen is also renown for 1200-seat capacity per train and 99.9% schedule dependability in most lines. An angel’s abundance of Regional Rail, Metro Heavy Rail and Trams serve Shinkansen at intermodal transportation centers. Two Mini-Shinkansen lines, on narrower gauge track, connect with Shinkansen in northern Japan.
By 2027, Shinkansen HSR will blanket Japan with 2150 miles of 155-217 mph Shinkansen HSR, plus one 311 mph MagLev line (“Chuo-Shinkansen”) between Tokyo and Nagoya. Japan plans to complete the 272-mile Tokyo-Nagoya-Osaka MagLev line by 2035. That advanced nation will seamlessly interconnect Airports, 1 MagLev, HSR, Regional Rail, Metro Heavy Rail, Trams and a high percentage of electric cars & buses on its national tollway-freeway system in an optimized Intermodal Passenger Transportation Network.
Global Economic Competitor: SOUTH KOREA
In 2004, South Korea opened its first HSR line between its two largest cities, Seoul and Busan. By 2022, South Korea expands to 763 miles of 155-217 mph HSR blanketing the nation’s population corridors. By 2030, South Korea will seamlessly interconnect Airports, HSR, Regional Rail, Metro Heavy Rail, Trams and a high percentage of electric cars on its national tollway-freeway system in an optimized Intermodal Passenger Transportation Network.
Global Economic Competitor: EUROPEAN UNION
France: The nation set speed benchmarks for HSR routes they call Lignes a Grande Vitesse (LGV) and High Speed Trains (HST) they call Trains a Grande Vitesse (TGV). Original LGV had a minimum radii of 2.5 miles track curvature — that’s straight enough for TGV to reach 186 mph Top Speed. Built since 2007, nextgen LGV has a minimum radii of 4.3 miles track curvature — that’s straight enough for current TGV to reach 199 mph Top Speed and nextgen TGV to reach 249 mph Top Speed. Today, 85% of the French ride on 1694 miles of LGV and nearly 65% of all French passenger railway is electrified, adding thousands of 93-124 mph Regional Rail miles. Its major cities have Metro Heavy Rail & Trams and its midsize cities have Trams that meet at intermodal transportation centers.
Though nextgen TGV is certified to operate up to 249 mph on nextgen LGV, common industry practice is to run HST at 90% of a route’s certified limit to cost-effectively manage energy and maintenance. When current TGV are replaced by nextgen TGV in 2023, they will operate up to 224 mph on nextgen LGV and up to 186 mph on original LGV. By 2025, TGV will create more sub-3-hour city-pairs between Paris, Lille, Lyon, Valence, Marseilles, Avignon, Bordeaux, Le Mans, Rennes, Tours, Nice, Strasbourg and Mulhouse. By 2030, France will blanket its nation with 2500 LGV miles providing 186-224 mph service interconnecting with thousands of Regional Rail, Metro Heavy Rail and Tram miles at intermodal transportation centers and airports.
Italy: In 2020, Italy had 605 miles of 155-186 mph HSR to Torino, Milan, Verona, Padova, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples, Salerno, Foggia and Bari. Italy is building HSR between every other major city in its nation. By 2025, Italy plans to upgrade its first HSR corridor segment, Florence-Rome, from 155 mph to 174 mph Top Speed. By 2030, Italy is on pace for 1000 miles of 155-217 mph HSR service interconnecting with a thousand Regional Rail, Metro Heavy Rail and Tram miles at intermodal transportation centers.
Spain: In 1992, Spain opened its first 186 mph AVE HSR route. By 2020, AVE HSR Network reached 2010 miles of 186-199 mph service. Over 65% of its passenger railway is electrified. By 2030, Spain plans to blanket its nation with 3045 HSR miles of 186-217 mph service, plus thousands of Regional Rail, Metro Rail and Tram miles at intermodal transportation centers.
Germany: In 2020, ICE HSR Network reached 1900 miles of 143-186 mph service. Nearly 60% of its railway is electrified and Germany has robust Regional Rail and Metro Rail in its large metro areas. ICE service also runs in the Frankfurt-Strasbourg-Paris corridor and the Frankfort-Cologne-Liege-Brussels corridor. By 2023, ICE Network will reach 2093 HSR miles in Germany.
By 2028, Germany is expanding ICE toward the Netherlands border headed to Amsterdam and to Fehmarn near the Baltic Sea and 205 mph Top Speed in is fastest routes. By 2030, ICE Network will blanket the nation with 143-205 mph service interconnecting with thousands of Regional Rail and Metro Rail miles at intermodal transportation centers.
Switzerland. In 2020, this small nation opened three lengthy 124-155 mph HSR tunnels through the Alps to shrink 4-6 hour train rides down to 2-3 hours. By 2030, it will have over a thousand HSR, Regional Rail and Metro Rail miles interconnecting at intermodal transportation centers.
Belgium & Netherlands: In 2020, these small Dutch countries reached 417 miles of 155-186 mph HSR service. Over 80% of their railway is electrified. By 2030, Belgium and Netherlands will have 500 miles of 155-186 mph HSR interconnecting with a thousand Regional Rail and Metro Rail miles at intermodal transportation centers, plus HSR service to France and Germany.
United Kingdom: Since 1994, UK has added a 186 mph Eurostar route to Paris and Brussels and one 143 mph HSR route within the UK. The UK has also electrified and upgraded 40% of its railway for hundreds of 124 mph Regional Rail miles. In 2028, the 224 mph London-Birmingham HSR route opens. In 2033, the 224 mph London-Manchester HSR route opens, creating over 1000 miles of 124-224 mph HSR interconnecting with thousands of Regional Rail and Metro Rail miles at intermodal transportation centers.
Portugal: This small country has 137 mph HSR service between its two largest cities, Lisbon and Porto, plus Regional Rail and Metro Rail miles intersecting at Lisbon intermodal transportation center. By 2030, Portugal and Spain will add a 186 mph HSR route between Lisbon and Madrid.
Austria: Vienna intermodal transportation center anchors hundreds of Regional Rail and Metro Rail miles. This small country is also building an impressive 155 mph rail tunnel as part of 349 miles of 155 mph HSR opening by 2026. An Austria-Germany HSR line is planned to open in the 2030s.
Denmark: In 2000, Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden began 124 mph HSR service via a 7.5 mile bridge and tunnel. In 2019, 155 mph HSR service opened between Copenhagen and Ringsted. In 2020, construction started for an 11-mile tunnel under the Baltic Sea for planned HSR between Ringsted and Fehmarn, Germany. By 2022, an 11-mile bridge will enable HSR service from Ringsted to the rest of Denmark. By 2030, Denmark will feature 124-155 mph HSR between its 6 largest cities plus Fehmarn, Germany.
In 2020, 186-199 mph Eurostar HSR service controls 95% of Paris-London and London-Brussels travel. The European Union HSR Network links over 70 cities and features a Eurail smartphone app for discounted online prices and smooth transfers between HSR, Regional Rail and Metro Heavy Rail in many nations. Nearly 40 European airport intermodal transportation centers connect to HSR, Regional Rail, Metro Heavy Rail or Metro Light Rail.
By 2032, Europe will have 19,000 HSR miles interconnecting 100 major cities in France, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland, Greece and Sweden. Europe will also have over 10,000 Regional Rail miles and 1,800 Metro Heavy Rail miles easing passenger rail transfers. Nearly all metro areas over 250,000 population will have Tram systems. All tollways-freeways will have electric charging stations. Nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, solar and natural gas will fuel power plants. Europe will have the world’s greenest and second largest Intermodal Passenger Transportation Network.
SUMMARY: Global Economic Competitor Transportation Advantages Over America
Global Economic Competitors have built comprehensive HSR, Regional Rail and Metro Rail systems with convenient transfers to shuttles, Uber, taxis and bikeways at Intermodal Transportation Centers for these benefits:
1. Alternatives to Highway and Airport Congestion: One HSR route can transport the equivalent of 20-60,000 daily solo-drivers on Interstate Highway; HSR is also proven to attract 67-95% of regional travelers who would otherwise fly.
2. Shorter Productive Travel Time: HSR has shorter CBD-to-CBD travel times than commercial flights; trains have wide tray tables & electric outlets at every seat and more dependable WiFi; some train cabins are Quiet Zones and some train cabins have pairs of opposing seats with tables designed for collaborative work.
4. Lower Smog Emissions: HSR, Regional Rail and Metro Rail are not only electric-powered, they enable countries to build highways with fewer lanes that cost less to maintain; even when their highways congest, fewer cars per capita emit air pollution.
3. More Jobs: HSR, Regional Rail and Metro Rail systems create thousands of good jobs that can not be exported.
5. Safer Travel: Since more people ride HSR, Regional Rail and Metro Rail, a lower percentage of citizens are killed or maimed in automotive accidents due to fatigue, distraction and inclement weather.
6. Transportation Oriented Development: Medium-to-large intermodal transportation centers have attracted shopping malls, hotels and office buildings within and nearby, thereby attracting more shoppers, commuters, business travelers and tourists that make CBDs vibrant.
7. Less Imported Oil for Transportation: Electric-passenger rail reduces driving via oil-powered cars, yet still lets people enjoy the freedom of driving when they want to; less oil consumption reduces nation’s trade deficit from imported oil.
8. More Exports: Billion dollar companies have emerged in European and Asian countries that build & consult on HSR, Regional Rail, Metro Heavy Rail and Tram infrastructure for global markets.
When World War II ended in 1945, America had the world’s largest passenger rail rail network and most respected transportation infrastructure. Today, America’s passenger rail network is a disgrace. In 2021, America will have only 160 miles of 125-160 mph HSR, a Scooge-like 300 miles of Regional Rail, 830 miles of Metro Heavy Rail and less than 1000 miles of Metro Light Rail. Most of America’s grand train stations have been re-purposed, shuttered or demolished. If America got serious about passenger rail today, it would still be 15 years behind most Global Economic Competitors.
Part 3 of this narrative journey reveals more rationale for America to greatly accelerate expansion of HSR, Regional Rail, Metro Rail and Light Rail systems.