Biting the bullet builds mega economies

HynesB88X146.JPGBy James G. Hynes
To understand why a high-speed rail line though Canada’s heartland is just what we need right now, take a look at what fast trains have done elsewhere in the world.
Japan pioneered the concept with its Shinkansen “bullet” trains decades ago, and it’s clear today that without this congestion-busting infrastructure, Powell90X39R.jpgJapan could not possibly have developed what continues to be the world’s second-largest economy.
In Europe, the French and the Germans have not only followed the Japanese lead, they have surpassed it. France’s TGV now holds the speed record (574kph) for conventional, rail-bound trains, and a German magnetic levitation train has gone faster still. The fast-rail “chunnel” link between Paris and London is now well-established, and other European high-speed Velaro70X49R.jpgsystems are at work in locations from Scandinavia to Spain. China has also joined the parade, both with high-speed rail projects, and with a German-designed mag-lev line linking downtown Shanghai with the city’s airport.
Virtually all these ventures are delivering major economic benefits. The TGV link between Lyon and Paris, for example, has proved to be four times as successful as projected, virtually abolishing air travel between those Serie103-124X28L.jpgcities. High-speed rail services stimulate inter-city commerce, promote business expansions, improve real estate values, ease demographic pressures and encourage investments—and they do it all while lowering the affected region’s CO2 output.
Fast train lines are five to six times more fuel-efficient per passenger mile than automobiles or commercial aircraft, and also consume far less land area than highways handling equivalent volumes of traffic. Nor are they any more expensive to build than the multi-lane freeways and mega-airports we now rely on to get us from city to city. Faster, cheaper, safer and more environmentally friendly...what’s not to like?
Peggey80X54R.jpgThe corridor from Montreal through Ottawa to Toronto contains more than half Canada’s population, and provides an even greater share of our total economic output. A new, high-speed transportation backbone is just what the region needs now to revitalize its cities and propel its economy into the 21st century. The equivalent American corridor from Boston to Washington is already equipped with North America’s fastest train service (built by Bombardier, Canada's world leader Neil%20Pulling98X32L.jpgin fast trains everywhere but here at home), though it can’t achieve true high-speed performance (200kph or more) because of rail conditions and other limitations. Running high-speed rails through our less densely-populated corridor wouldn’t be so costly or complicated. And whatever the cost, global experience shows that this is a type of investment that pays handsome returns for decades after it’s made.
So what are we waiting for? The only thing lacking seems to be a leader with the courage and vision to seize the moment.
[Ed Note: Click on links below for previous articles by Jim Hynes on high speed rail.]
HSR hostage to hydrocarbon legacy
Dare to create on a grand scale

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