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FAST TRAINS – WHY NOT HERE?

The French have had a network of fast trains since the 80’s.  The Spanish, Italians Belgians, Germans…essentially all of Western Europe have followed with 200 mph trains cris-crossing the continent.  High speed trains run the length of the Japanese main island. The Chinese have surpassed them all with over 13,000 miles of high speed rail, and plans for a high speed line linking China to Europe.

In the United States, some Amtrak trains in the Northeast Corridor run at 140 mph between Boston, New York, and Washington DC.  In the rest of the country, there are a few Amtrak long distance trains, such as the Empire Builder, and a few shorter distance State operated trains in Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, in the Midwest and Oregon and Washington in the Northwest.  In most other states, including Minnesota, there may be one train a day, or in some cases one every other day…or none at all.

In Minnesota, the Empire Builder transits the state mostly in the overnight hours, leaving St Paul at 8am Eastbound and 10:30 pm Westbound.  Besides a fairly inconvenient schedule, it operates on private freight rails, limited to speeds of 79 mph, and is frequently late due to competition with freight trains and the effects of weather in the plains and mountains in the West.   Planning for additional trains and upgraded track for 110 mph operations are in process.  However, funding from the state legislature has not been passed…or even heard in committee.  Over 30 cities will receive additional or enhanced service under this plan.  Over the next 30 years, a phased plan will provide a number of state networks, eventually linked by dedicated high speed lines.

 

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