US makes large high speed rail investment

The US Government announced last week a large loan investment into high speed rail in the country.

Working with the Department of Transport, the Obama Administration has earmarked $2.45bn worth of funding which it intends to invest into this infrastructure through the framework of a loan.

The loan, which is part of the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program, would be the largest in the history of the Department of Transportation.

Specifically, the loan money will go to rail operator Amtrak in order to allow them to expand services and make upgrades.

The primary benefactor of this loan will be the company’s Northeast Corridor, which runs between Washington DC and Boston.

With the loaned funds, Amtrak plans to purchase 28 new high speed trains, which once brought into use, would increase train speed to 257 km/h (160 mph).

Furthermore, these new trains, which will be manufactured by French company Alstom, would increase seating capacity by 33%.

“This loan is a key step to providing investments needed to help keep high speed trains moving throughout the region, and to help all commuters in the Northeast Corridor,” said US Vice President Biden.

“We need these kinds of investments to keep this region – and our whole country – moving, and to create new jobs.”

While this is the largest single loan announced by the Department of Transportation, the RRIF program in total has loaned $5.1bn in support of US railways.

US lags in high speed rail

Despite this investment, the US is lagging behind many other developed and developing countries in the roll-out of high speed rail.

US investment pales in comparison to China, where thousands of kilometers of high speed rail has been built in the last 5 years alone.

Meanwhile in Japan, the country is taking high speed rail to a whole new level with a planned national network of super-fast Maglev trains.

Conversely, questions remain as to whether the US has a high enough population density to support high speed passenger rail at all.