US transport boss: Spain’s trains are US’ model

I’ve never really quite understood why the United States has lagged behind other countries such as Spain, France and Japan when it comes to high speed trains. We arguably have a greater degree of technology than any other country in the world,  and in addition, the U.S. is obviously much larger in size than any of the aforementioned countries, therefore traveling greater distances in less time makes a great deal of sense. The way I see it there is also a major upside in not having to deal with airports. Maybe our love affair with the automobile is the reason high-speed trains have never been  a part of our focus.

I’d like to hear from anyone who has a more plausible explanation for this. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By HAROLD HECKLE, Associated Press Writer Harold Heckle, Associated Press Writer

MADRID – Spain’s bullet train system is a model to follow as America plans how to spend the money the government is injecting to stimulate the economy, the U.S. transportation secretary said Saturday.

Ray LaHood said the $8 billion allocated for high-speed railways in the United States will spur economic growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

President Barack Obama has cited Spain, France and Japan as countries with systems worth emulating.

The Spanish network is likely to interest the U.S. government because its specially designed, electrified tracks — first devised for the French TGV system — are not as expensive to lay and run as some German or Japanese alternatives.

And Spanish state-of-the-art tunneling technology has proved successful in boring efficiently through mountain ranges to reach the cities of Valladolid and Malaga.

LaHood met with Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to discuss how investing in such a train system could stimulate job creation in the U.S.

“Yesterday I traveled on a train at close to 350 kilometers (215 miles) per hour, the fastest I’ve ever ridden on a high-speed train,” LaHood said. He said he had enjoyed a conversation and beverage aboard and found the experience very civilized.

“Our leaders have made the decision that America will have high speed rail,” LaHood said.

Of $787 billion approved in Obama’s stimulus bill, $48 billion is destined to improving overall transport infrastructure, with rail receiving for the first time an important share, LaHood said.

He said that by the end of the summer there will be American people working in well-paying jobs building high speed rail links in the U.S.

The U.S. transportation secretary also met with Spanish Development Minister Jose Blanco. The two discussed how rail can be tailored to provide “intermodal links” with other forms of transport such as road, air and sea, as well as issues relating to safety on a high speed network.

The secretary said he was scheduled to meet with Vice President Joe Biden next week in Washington D.C. to decide how best to spend the $8 billion allotted to high speed rail. He said there would be “an early infusion of money to get things going.”

Spain’s high-speed train system began operating in 1992 between Madrid and Seville in the southwest. Since then the network has been extended by nearly 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) to link central Valladolid and Segovia to southern Malaga and northeastern Barcelona.

By 2014 bullet trains are expected to travel from Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, to Madrid in under three hours.

High-speed lines will eventually stretch from Portugal’s Atlantic coast, through France to Britain and Belgium, providing Europe with fast passenger transport to rival air travel.

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