High-speed rail has a simple purpose, right? Decrease the travel time between two points, what geographers call the “relative distance.” For better or worse though, bringing far flung places into close contact with the country’s core can bring homogenization and control along with economic benefits and convenience. This was one of the primary rationales for China’s elaborate railway into the core of Tibet, and the Basque nationalist group ETA has often stated their intention of targeting any Avé line into the region. Of course, it’s not a usually a problem here in the US… we’re highly mobile to begin with, and regional separatists are aren’t exactly easy to come by (I know do someone who leans that way sometimes, however…).
Canada, on the other hand, has to contend with the particular political and cultural position of Quebec within the country, and one Liberal MP has recently stirred up trouble by talking about “national unity” with regard to a proposed HSR line from Quebec City to Windsor. The Bloc Québécois, however, isn’t taking the bait.
“Imagine that the people of Quebec are prepared to engage in . . . spending money that’s taken out of the province of Quebec to build a line that’s going to make it easier for them to connect with southern Ontario,” Volpe said in an interview, as parliamentary hearings wrapped up last week on high-speed rail.
“I’m not happy with (Volpe’s) statement (on national unity),” said Bloc transport, infrastructure and communities critic Mario Laframboise. “It’s not a question of politics, it’s an environmental and economic question. We must achieve transport systems for the 21st century.”
Be happy that, despite a myriad of other issues, “national unity” is not a particular stumbling point for American HSR.