FRA: No "Cookie Cutter" High Speed Rail For The US

high speed rail spain photo

Photo from Spain: Midwest High Speed Rail Association

The Federal Railroad Administration is hoping Japan and other countries will help the United States to build a high-speed railway network. Karen Rae told Kyodo that FRA is reaching out to "a number of countries that have success in high-speed rail" and that "Japan is one of many." She also noted that they are trying to avoid creating a "cookie cutter" where everything is exactly the same: "It really needs to be designed around the local and state needs."

So, which are the countries that have the best high-speed rail systems in the world?Japan: Since the Shinkansen started operating between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964, the high-speed railway network is now the most heavily travelled rail route in the world, with 6 billion cumulative passengers. The first Shinkansen was built entirely on elevated tracks without road crossings and is separate from conventional rail. Since 1964, there have been no fatalities on the service due to collisions, derailments and so on, according to an interesting study by Christopher P. Hood called Biting the Bullet: What we can learn from the Shinkansen.

Spain: In the past five years, Spain has rapidly built one of the world's most modern and reliable high speed train systems. NPR is impressed, noting that "the Spanish network is expanding fast, and the trains are beating planes." The Midwest High Speed Rail Association went to Spain to find out more, and their report is glowing. Is Pato (Spanish for duck, due to the aerodynamic design of the power cars resembling a beak) perhaps exactly what the US needs?


Photos: The Guardian

France: The TGV has become a huge success since it started operating the first high-speed rail between Paris and Lyon in 1981, inspired by the Shinkansen. Expansion of the network since then means France has built new lines in the south, west, north and east of the country, and connects to other European countries as well: the fastest trains take 2 hours 15 minutes on the London-Paris and 1 hour 51 minutes on the London-Brussels routes. Like all other high speed trains in Europe and Japan, TGV is electrified, and the rails are exclusive to avoid delays from freight trains.

Germany: The regular InterCityExpress services run at up to 300 km/h (187 mph), the maximum design speed of German high-speed lines. On the French LGV Est however, some ICE trains reach 320 km/h (199 mph). China, Russia and a number of other countries are also ordering the Siemens Velaro, with a top speed of 403.7 km/h (250.8 mph).

South Korea: The KTX has been called the largest project since the foundation of the Republic of Korea. It connects Seoul to Pusan, operating at speeds of 300 km/h. The project was a massive bi-cultural undertaking: "The project's process of technology transfer entailed sending 1,000 Korean engineers to France for training in detail drawing, process designing, key parts manufacturing and testing, and quality control," according to OhmyNews.

ktx hyundai rotem train photo


Which system will the United States develop? It depends a lot on local conditions, and whatever support the states can get from the federal government. Rather than wasting more money on the car industry, why not speed up construction of a great railroad system that will be second to none?

More trains:
Is High Speed Rail the Answer?
High-Speed Trains Coming to California, Voters Approve Prop 1A
MagLev Trains By 2025 In Japan, Could Reach 361 MPH!
My 5 Favourite Trains In Tokyo, Japan (Videos)

Written by Martin Frid at

Related Content on