Despite talk of high-speed trains in California and tech geniuses' Hyperloops, nothing much happens on the tracks in the U.S. Until, it seems, now. A private project has been quietly steaming ahead with plans to link two Texan powerhouse cities to each other, at a cost of $10 billion. The project is currently at the environmental impact-study phase, which is expected to go on for another two or three years, but if successful, the company, Texas Central Railway, says that the trains might be running by 2021.
There are just 240 miles between Dallas and Houston — too far to drive without spending a day getting there and back, and too close to fly — and the land is flat and rural. What with all the oil weath in the state, a high-speed rail link would be just the ticket, with the backers, which include Japan's JR Central Railway, getting a return on their money more quickly than if the line were situated in other parts of the country.
Japanese involvement goes further than a fat checkbook. TCR is planning on running N700-I bullet trains, which reach a top speed of 205 miles per hour. That means that journey time between the two cities would be about 90 minutes. It's a much more edifying prospect than the shenanigans of travelling by air — not to mention the environmental implications if you consider yourself to be a lean, green human machine.
While other countries are hard at work investing in the next generation of high-speed rail links — France has been at it for donkeys' years — the U.S. has been slow off the blocks. In fact, America's idea of next-generation high-speed trains will travel at 125 mph — that's around a third as fast as China's planned super-maglev train line is expected to go when (and if) it gets the go-ahead from the authorities. China's ambition in this sphere, however, knows no bounds, as its plans to build a high-speed railway network goes as far west as London. It is even contemplating a lengthy undersea tunnel beneath the Bering Straits that would link it to the American continent, as part of a huge new line that would pass through Russia and Alaska. Anyone here fancy a two day, Sino-American trip through the snowy wastes, including a 100-plus-mile tunnel? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? ANYONE?