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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tackling the Headlines 15

China as an HSR superpower

We can pretty much count China out when it comes to setting the standard for fast trains. Last month, a train crash killed 39 passengers and left 192 others injured. Given the recent news about its disgraced rail minister, it was only a matter of time before something like what happened on the 23rd actually did happen. 

Take: The flaws in China’s HSR system demonstrate two things:
      1. China cannot continue building on the cheap and expect a world-class product.
      2. The crash has likely put China Railways from being a top three contender for operating the CAHSR route to a longshot because the blow will be that crippling.

Iowa Pacific 1, Amtrak 1

Early last month, a court ruled in favor of Iowa Pacific after it was prevented from reviving the Ski Train on liability grounds. The end result is that Amtrak has to pay the shortline railroad holding company $1.1 million in damages and found the national carrier in breach of an oral contract.


Take: This is now the second time in months that Amtrak has gotten significant pushback over its liability demands. Late last year, the carrier backed off of its demands that SunRail bear the full burden in the event an Amtrak train collided with the up-and-coming commuter railroad.


Now that Congress has resolved the debt ceiling mess, it needs to get back to doing something constructive on the passenger rail front. In addition to enforcing Sections 214 and 502 of PRIIA, it has to rewrite the liability guidelines so anyone who wants to start up railroad service doesn't get punished for operating service.


Plans for Oakland’s old train station

Oakland's historic station on 16th and Wood Streets is getting a facelift.

Take: What the infamous '89 earthquake taketh away, community revival will give back. People in Buffalo and Detroit should take some lessons from this experiment, even if the East Bay's former Southern Pacific station is no longer fit for rail use.

Badger state stupidity part 1

The long-planned Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter line is derailed before it leaves the station.

Take: That sputtering sound is southeastern Wisconsinites having to take increasingly congested interstates.

Badger state stupidity part 2

Wisconsin will spend $31 million to upgrade the Milwaukee-Chicago route. This comes after the feds rebuffed the state in May when Florida's funds were redistributed.

Take: In both parts of WI coverage, this has Governor Scott Walker's fingerprints are all over them. Like I said three months ago, I have absolutely no sympathy for a man who OPENLY campaigned via an anti-train website against the extension of the Hiawathas westward! I have nothing but antipathy for a governor who returns federal money, only to spend his state's money on working on a glorified interurban route. The conundrum also falls on WIDOT's shoes because it failed in its responsibility to properly market the route as an extension as opposed to a brand new route. I hope that Wisconsinites remember all the ill Walker has done for their state in three or seven years as they are stuck with ugly Horizon cars and only a few new Talgo cars once the Spanish carmaker is long gone, and they also look at how neighboring states fare with their new services as the Hiawathas remain stagnant.



2 comments:

  1. Unfortunately, even the $31.6 million in Wisconsin can barely be called an upgrade to the route itself. $21.4 million is going into a maintenance facility for those Talgo trainsets (and I think the state had been obligated to pay for it because of contracts the preceding Doyle administration had put together). The latter $10.2 million is being spent on upgrading the Milwaukee train/bus intermodal station.

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  2. Mulad, you are right. The $31.6 million that Wisconsin is spending on the Hiawatha are necessary to keep it running and make it ADA compliant.

    Just a comment. The two trains that collided in China were conventional trains having the kind of accident that is common in countries that do not adhere to international standards. High speed trains are those that reach a maximum operational speed of 160km/h. The trains in China reached slower maximum speeds than that and would been limited to even slower speeds if they had been running in the US (or Japan or South Korea).

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