High Speed Rail - The World and America's Needs
In light of the ever-increasing challenge for the world to continue its progression into an era of super-efficient energy use, the need for the rapid development and expansion of high-speed rail is more vital than ever.
Throughout much of Western Europe - and parts of Russia - high-speed rail routes, ranging in speed from a maximum of 320-350 km/hr (200-220 mph) down to 200-230 km/hr (125-140 mph) are firmly established as an essential element of travel.
The situation in East Asia - where some high-speed lines are in service for years (particularly in Japan) and many others are currently under construction - holds great potential. Brasil is the South American leader in high-speed rail links.
Two prototypes - The JR-MAGLEV/MMLX01 Magnetic Levitation (581 km/hr-360+ mph in 2003) and the TGV/Train a Grande Vitesse (nearly 575 km/hr-360 mph in 2007) hold the records for maximum speed - though such speeds lead to a number of major concerns, including noise, cost and deceleration time.
The fastest maximum operating speed (MOR) of any segment of a high-speed rail line is 350 km/hr (217 mph) on the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Rail in China.
America's best effort has yielded the Acela Express - its only high-speed rail line - with a top speed of 240 km/hr (150 mph). The Acela serves Amtrak's Northeast Corridor - Boston to Washington, D.C.
Surveys have shown that the optimum time and distance for high-speed rail journeys is 2-3 hours (150-600 km/100-400 miles) when factors of traffic congestion on highways and travel to and from airports (plus time to clear airport security) are taken into consideration.
After years on the back burner, high-speed rail has recently been given a big boost in the US, with funding set to establish and expand high-speed service in California, Texas, Florida, the South and the Midwest.
While there are many miles yet to travel, America has - finally - begun to respond to the reality of the many environmental and economic advantages of high-speed rail.