Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Brits make substantial rail investment

The past few days have been a little busy, but I did not want to let this story escape my notice. Not everybody in the United Kingdom is pleased with the $20 billion commitment to improve the national rail system, but it is far more intelligent than the behavior of congressional Republicans in the U. S. House of Representatives.

Noteworthy in the British story is a continued lack of high speed service to Scotland. Well, what do those uppity Scots expect anyway? I wonder what The Proclaimers have to say (or sing) about this development?

The British experience is in no way comparable to the abominable deterioration of American passenger rail. Nonetheless, they have a long range plan. Isn’t that a concept?

Check out the Reuters report.

UPDATE 2-UK plans $20 bln for rail, high-speed line on hold

Tue Jul 24, 2007 6:53 PM BST138


(Adds quotes, detail)

By Pete Harrison

LONDON, July 24 (Reuters) – Britain has unveiled plans to spend more than 10 billion pounds ($20 billion) to expand rail capacity in the next seven years, providing 1,300 extra train carriages and an upgrade to London’s Thameslink line.

But an expansion of Britain’s high-speed rail network was put on hold by Tuesday’s 30-year rail plan.

More than 1 billion passengers a year use Britain’s railways, and the minister for transport, Ruth Kelly, told parliament the investment was needed to cope with an expected 20 percent increase in demand by 2014.

It’s only a daydream if it can’t be done, or nobody’s ever done it before.

How about a transportation policy that included the entire nation, even the “fly over” states? How about some environmentally and economically friendly choices? How about services that recognize the importance of rural areas?

Why should every aviation and highway project be an automatic “yes?”


Filed under: International High Speed Rail

House rejects moves to cut Amtrak

This is a fight that has been going on since David Stockman, budget hatchet man for Reagan, dreamed up a bunch of baseless nonsense about empty trains. The good news is that “big mo” is on our side.

The AP sums it up nicely.

The vote Tuesday came as the House emphatically dismissed a move by Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, to eliminate Amtrak’s nearly $500 million operating subsidy. The vote was 328 to 94.

As is, Amtrak is on a $1.5 billion starvation diet. $929 million for capital and debt service will not go very far on necessary bridge , tunnel, track and signal work in the northeast corridor. It is noteworthy that Amtrak President Alexander Kummant made little mention of desperate equipment needs for the long distance fleet. It must be presumed that the official position about us in the rest of America is “benign neglect.”

Meanwhile, so-called “conservatives” play the scapegoat game with the Sunset.

The worst example, the iconic Sunset Limited train between New Orleans and Los Angeles, loses 62 cents a passenger mile, according to Amtrak’s latest available monthly report. But an Amtrak critic, Pete Sessions, Republican of Texas, lost a 283-139 vote Tuesday to kill that route.

Those who do not closely follow the arcane world of American rail travel may not know that the wicked and grossly inefficient Sunset is a three-day-a-week train. It enjoys most of the same overhead as other more virtuous routes, but has less than 50% of the capacity. The lines east of New Orleans have been suspended for almost two years. The dishonesty of the argument against the Sunset speaks a volume about those who make it.

If the Sunset is the improve its’ operating numbers, Amtrak needs the equipment to make it a daily train and improve stations. The Heartland Flyer needs more equipment. Well, you know the story. Let’s make sure Congress gets the picture.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics

Heartland Flyer extension to Kansas discussed

Very often, our discussions are limited by constantly having to settle for crumbs under the table. In the case of restoring an essential broken link in the national system, this is particularly evident.

Kansas Public Radio reports the story.

KMUW’s Frank Dudgeon talked with Autumn Heithaus, Director of the Northern Flyer Alliance, and Evan Stair, Director of Passenger Rail Oklahoma. This is an extended version of the interview heard on Morning Edition on KMUW.

Their first state-wide meeting is Thursday, July 26 at 3:30 P.M., at the Museum of World Treasures in Old Town, 835 First Street, Wichita.

The web site for the Northern Flyer Alliance is:

The web site for Passenger Rail Oklahoma is

Kansas backers see Amtrak as a low cost transportation alternative and part of the development of downtown Wichita. Evan Stair of Oklahoma points to 64,000 boardings a year, which he claims far exceeds original projections.

The route would be from Fort Worth to Kansas City. Among the destinations served are Norman, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Newton, Topeka, and Kansas City. This is about 606 miles and there are many other smaller town stops – all of which are transportation deprived and hungry for the kind of service provided by Amtrak.

One of my purposes here is to highlight how the United States is being left behind by most other industrialized nations in the real of ground travel. The Heartland Flyer is 19th. century technology, but there is no reason an extended version would not well serve all the communities along the way. This kind of train is a completely different proposition from the ultra-fast point-to-point European style inter-city express that is becoming so prominent.

This is basic reliable comfortable transportation for small town America. As we improve the rail infrastructure, creating more capacity for freight and passenger, trains like the Heartland Flyer will provide even greater service.

There are issues of scheduling and equipment. Apparently, a 14 hour daylight service between the end points is being heavily considered. It is probably the only politically viable alternative at this time. It may be difficult for Amtrak to come up with a second set of equipment, as things stand now.

Once we convince Congress of the necessity of sensible transportation alternatives, more equipment availabilities would make new trains possible. Perhaps a Houston-Newton connector with the Chief might work out.

This expansion puts more dots on the map and gives more travel choices to folks in Texas Oklahoma and Kansas.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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July 2007