Thursday, January 17, 2008

HSR in Argentina

Although my personal opinion is that we're just not ready for high speed rail in California (let's try making regular trains run on time and work together before we try getting fancy!), the growing list of countries that have better trains than us is getting to be embarrassing.

The figures on Argentina's new line seem kind of familiar: Buenos Aires and Cordoba are 450 miles apart (just about like SF and LA). Currently a train trip between them takes 14 hours (just like the Starlight), and HSR will bring it down to 3.

(That's just 150mph, isn't it? Which is not really all that fast for trains these days. I wonder if our CAHSRA isn't making things much more complicated, and expensive, than they need to by aiming for the competitive-with-airplanes SF/LA travel time of 2:20?)

If Argentina can do it, why not us?

Perhaps part of the key is to not let national pride get in the way of hiring competent professionals, wherever they may be from. The Argentine HSR is being built by a consortium of companies with experience in the area, such as Alstom, builders of the TGV trains, who will be providing (I assume more-or-less off-the-shelf) versions of them for this line.

Can you imagine, even for a second, any US passenger rail agency saying "France has good trains, let's just buy some of theirs?"

For more details, there is a press release on Alstom's web site.

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