Interstate High Speed Rail Competitors
Our Global Economic Competitors are rapidly building best-of-breed High Speed Rail systems. To understand why we should also build a best-of-breed Interstate High Speed Rail System, we must first examine international definitions of railroading organized in a taxonomy. Such a tool helps the average American understand the magnitude of benefits that Global Economic Competitors are reaping from best-of-breed High Speed Rail.
Taxonomy of Railroading Tiers
The taxonomy below is a “Cheat Sheet” that summarizes essential railroad features for laymen. As you review the increasing speeds, consider that Construction Cost Per Mile dramatically increases with route speeds. The miles per hour (mph) speeds are conversions from evenly-numbered kilometers per hour (kph) used around the world:
Freight Rail Routes dominated by Slow Zones for 49-62 mph top speed using diesel-powered trains; 1-2 daily passenger trains run on freight rail routes with very low on-time performance
Conventional Rail Routes loaded with Slow Zones for 79-81 mph top speed using diesel-powered trains; 1-4 daily intercity passenger trains on routes suitable for commuter trains; 60-65% on-time performance
Improved Rail Routes with less Slow Zones for 90-93 mph top speed using diesel-powered trains; 2-8 daily intercity passenger trains run on scenic routes; 70-75% on-time performance
Emerging HSR Routes with fewer Slow Zones for 106-112 mph top speed using diesel-powered trains; 10-16 daily intercity passenger trains often shared with commuter trains; 80-85% on-time performance
1st Generation HSR Routes with few Slow Zones for 124-149 mph top speed using electric-powered High Speed Trains (HST); 16-24 daily intercity passenger trains; a few countries permit fast commuter trains on them during daytime and freight trains on them late nights; 90% on-time performance
2nd Generation HSR Routes with HSR-only tracks for 155-168 mph top speed using electric-powered HST; 24-36 daily intercity passenger trains; 92-95% on-time performance
3rd Generation HSR Routes with straiter HSR-only tracks for 186 mph top speed using electric-powered HST; 28-64 daily intercity passenger trains; 95-99% on-time performance
Very High Speed Rail (VHSR) Routes with even straiter HSR-only tracks and fewer stops for 199-224 mph top speed using electric-powered HST; 98-99.5% on-time performance
MagLev Routes, only Magnetic Levitated Train Route in commercial operation reaches 267 mph top speed in an 18-mile trip from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to a Shanghai suburb.
If you prefer weightier descriptions, examine this detailed taxonomy of route speeds, train frequencies, punctuality and passenger capacities. Otherwise, read on.
Big Carrots For Nations Building Intercity High Speed Rail Networks
As you see on the chart below, High Speed Passenger Trains and Rapid Transit Trains are far more passenger-energy-efficient than buses, cars and planes.
Now examine the additional benefits, or “Big Carrots” as we call them, of a 155-224 mph High Speed Rail network fed by 106-112 mph rail routes and complimented with robust Rapid Transit systems. Asia and Europe are proving that these Big Carrots outweigh substantial construction costs:
1. After 7-10 years of operation, Japan, France, South Korea, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium prove that an 155+ mph HSR route operates at a profit to help fund system expansion.
2. HSR cuts demand for wider highways that cost taxpayers more to build & maintain because HSR is faster than long drives and less expensive than single-occupant driving & parking.
3. HSR cuts demand for airport expansion that costs taxpayers more to build & maintain because HSR takes less total time & expense between city centers than sub-500 mile flights.
4. HSR increases passenger capacity faster and cheaper to add than highways and airports via more trains-per-hour, double-decking cabins and adding cabins to each trainset.
5. HSR produces hundreds of thousands of jobs that can never be outsourced to other nations.
6. Since it is electric-powered, HSR can reduce trade deficits by importing less oil for transportation energy.
7. Since it is electric-powered, HSR reduces Smog and Green House Gas from too many cars driven long distances and too many sub-500 mile flights.
8. After the first HSR line achieves operating profitability, HSR systems typically attract 20-33% private investment that helps fund system expansion.
9. Intermodal transportation centers anchored by HSR & Rapid Transit systems attract office, residential, hotel and retail development for communities that are less dependent on driving and parking.
10. Global Economic Competitors have developed billion dollar companies employing tens of thousands of people that build HSR trains & parts for their nation and others.
11. After the elevator, HSR is the safest mode of mass transportation.
Big Sticks For Not Building Intercity High Speed Rail Networks
There’s also Big Stick reasons explaining why America needs High Speed Rail. The first is that, excluding freight rail, America’s surface transportation infrastructure has fallen behind Global Economic Competitors.
Throughout history, transportation advances have created economic advantage within and between nations. Prior to 1825, New York City, Philadelphia and Boston were close to size in population and economic importance. Then Erie Canal opened, enabling New York City to enjoy larger, faster, cheaper Midwest trade volume than Philadelphia and Boston. Soon afterwards, New York City dwarfed Philadelphia and Boston in economic importance and population. New York City extended its transportation advantage over other American cities by building the the world’s largest Metrorail system from 1904 to 2010.
In 1811, England pioneered the first practical train service. In 1863, London built the world’s first subway Metrorail system. Both breakthroughs enabled England’s economy to grow faster and larger than others in Europe by reducing costs and delays to transport goods and passengers. London’s economy was larger than New York City’s until the 20th Century.
Even in the Information Age, face-to-face business meetings and social gatherings are crucial to idea exchange and service transactions that increase economic activity. Keep that in mind as you consider how Global Economic Competitors are expanding, modernizing and optimizing transportation infrastructure faster than America.
Global Economic Competitor Completing HSR Network By 2022: JAPAN
Japan fits a population half the size of America in area the size of California. Being a country with little oil since 1932 and mountainous island terrain that forced dense population in its flatlands, Japan was compelled to address its transportation future sooner than everyone else.
After World War II, Japan built nuclear power plants for electricity to power elevated and subway Metrorail in its large cities. Japan launched the world’s first electric-powered 130 mph Shinkansen HSR service during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Today, the combination of Tokyo’s two Metrorail systems handle the most rapid transit passengers in the world and Osaka Metrorail system is 14th busiest. Nearly everyone rides Shinkansen HSR between cities. In coordination with Metrorail and bus systems feeding train stations, Shinkansen has transported over 6 billion passengers through earthquake and typhoon country with zero fatalities and astonishing schedule dependability — as low as 6 seconds annual delay on one line.
Though Japan’s 62-mph intercity tollway system is well-maintained and comprehensive, it is priced to discourage single-occupant driving. As a result of Shinkansen, Metrorail systems and high tolls, only 30% of Japanese ride the intercity tollway system. In contrast, about 90% of Americans have rode the Interstate Highway System.
In 2011, the 9.0 Earthquake shifted the ground 8 feet sideways in parts of Japan. The resultant tsunami killed hundreds of people, washed away Sendai Airport, roadways and triggered a nuclear power plant meltdown. Japanese railway engineers however, designed a resilient HSR system that prevented a single Shinkansen train in operation from derailing. Here’s a first person account of the emergency train stop from 199 mph.
After safety checks, portions of Shinkansen railway unaffected by the tsunami, returned to service only hours later. Incredibly, Shinkansen service to Sendai resumed only 6 weeks later. Bravo to Japanese engineers for electrical systems, brakes, railway, tunnels and bridges that out-performed their 8.0 Earthquake design and quickly recovered from an earthquake and tsunami.
By 2022, Shinkansen system expansion completes and next generation Shinkansen trains will operate between 155-211 mph throughout Japan. Unburdened by excessive regional flights, Japanese airports will be fully optimized for flights of 500 miles and longer.
By 2030, Japan will have mostly electric & electric-hybrid cars. It will cross the threshold of nuclear and coal dependency to mostly renewable energy. Japan will seamlessly interconnect International Airports, HSR, Rapid Transit and Tollway-Freeway systems in an optimized Intermodal Passenger Transportation Network that has minimal dependence on fossil fuels.
Global Economic Competitor Completing HSR Network By 2032: EUROPEAN UNION
In 1978, Italy opened Europe’s first HSR line having 155 mph top speed. In 2013, Italy started running the world’s most advanced Very High Speed Trains (VHST), the French-built AGV quickly and the Canadian-built Zefiro. Though both trains run up to 186-mph in the Torino-Milan-Bologna-Florence-Rome-Naples-Salerno corridor, as route upgrades complete by 2020-21, Italy anticipates trains reaching 217 mph top speed. By 2030, every major city in Italy is planned to be connected with 155-217 mph service.
In 1981, the world took notice of 168 mph TGV connecting Paris and Lyon. In 2017, the 1600-mile French TGV system reaches 199 mph on five lines, 186 mph on several others and transports over 115 million annual passengers. Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, Lille and Le Mans expanded Metrorail lines that feed patrons to TGV stations. Other French cities orient Tram (Light Rail) lines around their TGV stations. As a result, over 83% of the French ride TGV. By 2030, France will have 2500 LGV-miles providing 155-217 mph service to every populous corridor in the nation and interconnections with Belgium, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Italy HSR systems. By then, over 90% of French residents will ride on HSR tracks.
As previously mentioned, Eurostar HSR was introduced between France, Belgium and the United Kingdom in 1994. Eurostar tracks on the France and Belgium side supported 186+ mph trains from Day 1. Eurostar tracks on the UK side were upgraded to support 186+ mph trains in 2007, shortening Journey Time between Paris-London to 2 hours 4 minutes and 1 hour 43 minutes between London-Brussels. As a result, 95% of travel between those three cities is by Eurostar. Recently, Eurostar switched to newer VHSTs to offer 199 mph service for 1 hour 49 minute London-Paris Journey Time and 1 hour 31 minute London-Brussels Journey Time. By shaving 30 minutes off the Round-trip Journey Time, even more French, Belgians and Brits conduct day trips. France is working on a 217 mph upgrade in the Paris-Lyon-Marseilles corridor, its three biggest cities.
Buoyed by Eurostar success, the UK is upgrading London-Birmingham rail route from 125 mph to 217 mph service by 2026. London-Manchester rail route is also slated upgrade from 125 mph to 217 mph service in 2032. Virgin Airlines wants to pay the UK government to operate Very High Speed Trains in those routes.
In 1992, Spain opened its first 186 mph HSR route between Madrid and Seville. Its AVE trains now reach 199 mph between Madrid and Barcelona. Spain and France have a southern HSR crossover where trains operating right-hand-side in Spain use a border flyover track to operate left-hand-side, the standard in France. No more border stops for train changes. By 2020, Spain will have over 2500 miles of 155-199 mph HSR service. A nation with 1/6th the population and 1/10th the GDP of America, Spain is committing $120 billion by 2030 to blanket its nation with 155-217 mph HSR service to 90% of Spaniards.
In 1991, Germany introduced 125 mph InterCity Express (ICE) routes. Shortly afterwards, Germany upgraded its part of the Cologne-Brussels route to 155 mph HSR-only tracks. Though Germany has a slower construction timetable than France and Spain, the ICE System is being upgraded to 155-211 mph between all major cities in that country by 2032.
Switzerland has recently built three passenger rail tunnels through the Alps that support 124-155 mph. By 2032, Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany and Austria will open enough high speed tunnels to shrink current 4-6 hours train rides through the Alps down to 2-3 hours.
The Eurail Pass, already enabling discounted travel prices, is becoming more attractive each year that 155+ mph HSR routes are added to the Netherlands, Portugal, Austria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland, Norway, Finland and Sweden. Standards for HSR train weights, signaling, voltage power and track gauge have formed a European Union HSR network that already links 70 major cities.
Private companies are paying significant license fees to run their High Speed Trains on HSR tracks in France, Italy, Spain and Germany, which helps fund system expansion. Japan and France proved that HSR-only tracks repay their construction costs in 7-10 years. Anchored by international train orders, Alstom (France), Japan Central Railway, Siemens (Germany) and Talgo (Spain) companies have grown to multi-billion dollar size. More impressively, by 2030, most grey-colored 112-125 mph routes on the European HSR Map will upgrade to 155-217 mph routes totaling 19,000 miles and 100+ cities.
Simultaneous with HSR expansion, 37 European Union airports feature HSR-Metrorail stations. European Union nations are expanding rapid transit systems, adding tollway charging stations for electric cars, and adopting biofuel standards for new freight trucks, freight trains and ships. By 2032, renewable and nuclear energy will source most electric power in Europe. European Union Airports, HSR, Metrorail and Tollway-Freeway systems will interconnect the world’s 2nd biggest Intermodal Passenger Transportation Network, while having the least dependency on fossil fuels.
Global Economic Competitor Completing HSR Network By 2025-30: CHINA
In 1993, China was an emerging economy with passenger trains averaging 30 mph and most citizens riding bicycles. By 2017, China was the world’s second largest economy. Their rapid economic growth and form of government allows more Imminent Domain land-takings and job assignment to build massive electric-powered transportation systems faster and cheaper than democratic nations. China has already built over 12,500 HSR miles — more miles than the rest of world combined. As a result, China grew from 7 million annual train passengers in 2008 to well over 1 billion annual train passengers in 2017. They connect to the fast-growing Metrorail systems of 30 cities.
China planned to invest $100 billion/year to reach 22,000 HSR miles by 2025. Now many economists say they should slow infrastructure construction to reduce national debt. Even if they accelerate debt repayment by pushing the 22,000 HSR mileage goal to 2030, that mileage will exceed European Union and Japan HSR mileage, combined.
The HSR network allows China to optimize airports for 500+ mile flights and expand an intercity tollway-freeway system that economically discourages single & double-occupant drives. Moreover, China is encouraging citizens to buy electric vehicles. It is building solar & wind power faster than any other nation.
By 2030, China’s International Airports, HSR, Rapid Transit and Tollways-Freeway systems will interconnect the world’s biggest Intermodal Passenger Transportation Network and draw 20% of its energy from renewable sources, while cutting coal usage. China also plans to anchor a Trans-Asia HSR Network spreading to India, Southeast Asia, Russia and Turkey. Based on China’s infrastructure building track record, count on it.
Other Leading And Emerging Nations Building HSR Systems
Russia, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela are investing a larger percentage of GDP in HSR networks than America does. Even oil-rich Saudi Arabia is building an electric-powered HSR System.
SUMMARY: Global Economic Competitor Transportation Advantages Over America
Last century, America enjoyed cheap oil & gas and advanced manufacturing base assisted by the world’s best airport, seaport and surface transportation network to transport people and products. That infrastructure enabled us to close more business transactions, expanding our economy larger than Global Economic Competitors, despite outsourcing low-level manufacturing jobs since the 1970s.
Now the table has turned. The advanced manufacturing, seaport & aviation infrastructure of Global Economic Competitors matches ours. Their highway infrastructure is as comprehensive as our Interstate Highways, but slanted towards Tollways for better maintenance and to encourage HSR patronage. By moving passengers to new HSR-only tracks, they are freeing up slow-speed track capacity to improve freight rail that lowers shipping costs.
Our Global Economic Competitors are growing their service economies too. By shrinking 3-10 hour train rides down to 1.5-4 hour train rides, Global Economic Competitors conduct more business on High Speed Rail and unburden intercity highways. Their popular Rapid Transit systems also reduce the percentage of citizens caught in productivity-draining traffic jams. Furthermore, traffic jams on their 4-6 lane metro area freeways produce less Smog and Green House Gas than traffic jams on our 8-12 lane metro area freeways.
Excluding 2009-10, America has never adequately invested in the conversion of Slow Speed Rail to High Speed Rail. Excluding a handful of cities, we did not convert Streetcars to Rapid Transit when it would have been relatively cheap. Even in cities that converted Streetcar to Rapid Transit routes, excluding 1973-81 and 2009-10, Rapid Transit investment has been sub-par. Since 1982, we have under-maintained Interstate Highways & bridges. By letting our surface transportation advantages wilt away, America sits in traffic jams crossing potholes and dangerous bridges, while Global Economic Competitors widen their surface transportation advantages.
If surface transportation advantages by Global Economic Competitors were the only Big Stick to fear, the rest of the world would not model transportation infrastructure after Japan and France. In Part 3, examine the other Big Sticks driving nations to furiously build HSR and Rapid Transit infrastructure, placed in the context of why America has not.