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A New Powerful Argument for Fast Trains.

Someone once said that the Republican Party is 100% in favor of progress . . . but not now.

Well, here comes one more argument in support of high-speed rail, courtesy of the French government. Perhaps this will be the one that tips the scale and opens the eyes of some key GOP members of Congress.

Let me start by saying it’s an undisputed fact that aviation is a major contributor to global warming. There are multiple thousands of commercial flights every day and all of them pumping out exhaust from all those thousands of jet engines. And it goes on around the clock. 

A year ago, from my room at the Hilton Hotel at Los Angeles International Airport, I had a great view of a main runway. You can stand there all day and watch huge passenger jets taking off—one plane every 90 seconds. They start before dawn and continue until midnight.  And there are two of these runways—one for take-offs, another for landings. One plane every 90 seconds, seven days a week . . . all year ‘round. And the same is true for JFK and O’Hare and Atlanta and others. And it’s also true of the major airports around the world.

I’m sure the federal government could tell us how many of those flights are short-haul domestic flights . . . maybe even how much pollution those one-hour-long flights contribute to air pollution and thus to global warming.

The French, of course, have led the way with high-speed trains for years and now the French government has taken a significant step in the effort to slow down global warming.

Specifically, all domestic airline flights in France are now banned if it’s possible to travel between the two cities by train in two-and-a-half hours or less. And it’s such an obvious step to take that other countries are expected to follow suit. Austria already has.

When it comes to train travel—both conventional and high-speed trains—the French know what they’re doing.  Their first high-speed trains began service between Paris and Lyon in 1981, almost 42 years ago.

But have the French accepted rail travel as an alternative to flying? Well, the population of the country is 67 million and SNCF, the French national railway, has an annual ridership of about 110 million.  That means–on average–every man, woman and child in France makes almost two trips by train every year. And that number will increase dramatically when the new ban on short flights goes into effect.

Yes, I’d call that “acceptance”. Now let’s the get the rest of Europe and start working on politicians from both parties in this country. Because we’re running out of time.

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