The Beat Goes On … Elsewhere.
I don’t mean to imply that passenger rail projects are not happening in this country, but the fact is, there’s a great deal going on elsewhere in the world. Take a look at the rail-related items that greeted me when I snapped on the computer this morning … all of them just this morning.
The Israeli government has announced a plan to construct a new rail line that will connect a couple of small communities to the central system. Cost of the project is estimated at seven billion US dollars. That’s an amount equal to the subsidy Amtrak, our national passenger rail system, gets from our federal government over about four-and-a-half years.
The government of Austria is testing a new design for couchette coaches. These are rail cars on overnight trains in Europe with compartments accommodating two, four people, or even six people. The Austrians have put a full-size mock-up on display in Vienna. Each couchette includes four berths—two lowers and two uppers. Each berth is provided with a folding tray to hold a laptop, a power outlet and individual lighting.
Meanwhile, the Swiss have just announced plans to connect two of that country’s railroads, Zentralbahn and the Matterhorn Gotthard Railway by means of a new rail line through a five-mile-long tunnel that will be bored under the Grimsel Pass. The project is estimated to cost close to US$600 million.
And, in Norway, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has asked for bids from companies interested in operating passenger service on a half-dozen routes linking almost a dozen cities. Bidders will be pre-qualified and the first phase will be awarded in August of 2017.
I know it’s like a broken record, but throughout the rest of the world, passenger rail is the preferred mode of travel and it’s supported by government. It isn’t all high-speed trains either. In fact, most of the trains you take all over Europe travel at conventional speeds. The fact is, all across Europe, passenger trains can take you from almost anywhere to almost anywhere. Two years ago, I spent several days in a small town in France with about 3500 residents. They have their own railway station and six trains a day.
Cincinnati, Ohio, with a population of 2.2 million in the metropolitan area, gets a train. It’s Amtrak’s Cardinal, which runs three days a week. The eastbound train comes through at 3:30 in the morning. It’s not so bad if you’re headed west toward Chicago. That train arrives at 1:30 a.m.