A Quick Comment on High Speed Rail Projects

18 Aug

A major challenge to transit development the world over is the political single view toward each mode. At the moment the US is concentrating on HSR with politicians, skeptics, and supporters all creating a great deal of noise about how it will work/fail, repay/cost etc; But my fear is that a lot of meetings in councils around the world start with a narrow agenda, such as “Right ladies and gentlemen, today we’re going to concentrate on railways and this new project for the South East region and how a new line will help.”

The approach I would advocate, especially considering the near blank canvas that the US have, is to plan your transit projects to be part of a much wider, fully integrated transport network, and that means stations at airports, harbours, Business Districts, motorway interchanges etc; Pro-politicians and supporters of HSR must avoid the trap of believing that headline grabbing journey times and centre-to-centre services alone will validate the objectives of such a scheme.

Concentrating on just one mode of transport (even to the extent that sub-sectors like High Speed Freight are also ignored) will result in almost all projects not realising their full potential. Yes there may be success and good ridership levels, but a carefully planned and integrated solution will deliver for years and years, beyond that of just a two dimensional high speed intercity link.

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