A Velaro train traveling through Spain. Photo: eldelinux under a Creative Commons license
There are a lot of good reasons to travel by train- compared to flying, it's often cheaper and certainly more relaxing, and unlike driving, you don't have to keep your eyes on the road, unless you want to appreciate the scenery. And of course, there's the enormously reduced impact on the environment. But when it comes to travel by rail, most Americans know the United States is far behind much of the world. China spent a hefty $4 billion on 80 high speed trains last year, and Europe keeps on extending its already impressive rail network.
But now, President Obama's vision of an America criss-crossed by high speed trains is coming true: Siemens Industries is bringing its Velaro train to Florida, California, and the Midwest. That is, unless GOP leaders get their way. The Velaro train, which is already in use in Spain, Russia and China, has a top speed of 250 mph (making it the fastest passenger train in the world) and makes the trip from Madrid to Barcelona in two and a half hours. Thanks to ambitious plans in three regions, more Americans than ever before will be able to travel via high speed rail.
In Florida, Tampa and Orlando will soon be connected, with long-term plans to add a corridor all the way to Miami. The California project is more ambitious, aiming to link Anaheim, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Fresno, and San Diego. In the Midwest, Siemens' Viaggio train will run from Chicago to St. Louis and Kansas City, a network reminiscent of the one that helped the region boom in the mid-19th century.
Add in the fact that the Florida project alone could create 27,500 new jobs and $2.9 billion a year in new business sales (Siemens' estimate), and this news is almost too good to be true. Sadly, it might be just that- if the GOP candidates manage to kill the projects as promised.
More on high speed rail travel:
China High Speed Rail (Video): Planet Green News
Realizing The Potential of High-Speed Rail: For Climate Protection; Business Productivity; and Security
Five High Speed Trains That Are Changing the Face of Rail