Why doesn’t the US have high-speed rail?

This is a serious question, although part of the answer may lie in the fact that Rail Travel isn’t a US invention whereas the “inexpensive” automobile was. The problem is that rail travel has offered a far more efficient mode of transportation than air or personal automobiles, yet has not been nutured in the US. So, other countries have high speed rail such as Eurostar and China’s Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway. The latter being the fastest train service in the world with an average speed of 312.5 km/h (194.2 mph) on the 922 km (572.9 mi) route.   While Amtrak’s Acela promises high speed service with a top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph),  the trains average less than half of that.

Another problem with high speed rail in the US is the infrastructure needed for such a line.  Either that or a train that can address the old track beds used by the current rail system.   The current track beds are too curvy for most high speed rail trains, which is a major problem with Acela.  Additionally, high speed rail trains share tracks with freight and slower passenger trains which are another reason that speeds above 241 km/h (150 mph) are not possible on shared track under current US Rail regulations.  So there are many reasons proper high speed rail service in the US would require purpose-built dedicated track on a separate right of way.

British Rail is a dream compared to US trains.

There are tilting mechanisms which allow for the trains to use the older track beds, but that technology doesn’t allow for speeds high enough to make train travel competitive with air at this point.  On the other hand, train service is still limited by the rail regulations to 241 km/h (150 mph). So, there would need to be an investment in the rail infrastructure.  That is something which would require a change in priorities from bailing out financial institutions to working on infrastructure.

Additionally, the “high speed rail” which does exist in the US only operates in the NE Corridor (between Washington, DC and Boston, MA).  There needs to be a expansion of rail service beyond the NE Corridor to the rest of the country, which is another reason higher speed trains are needed in the US to bridge the long distances in the West and even across the continent.

But, given the thought that the fastest trains in the world are found in China and the US is in debt up to its eyeballs to China, perhaps the Chinese may be the US’s salvation in regard to high speed rail.  Quite frankly, even though high speed rail is something the US desperately needs, I doubt there is the will amongst politicians to move for its development.  As history has shown, the US would rather neglect its infrastructure until it is painfully obvious that it needs repair.

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