Monday, September 22, 2008

Does Maglev Hurt High Speed Rail?

Source: Metropolis

"Magnetic levitation, which involves running high-speed trains on a cushion of electromagnetic attraction or repulsion (depending on the system), is one of those futuristic ideas that have never quite arrived. I associate maglev less with LaRouche (who has the technology entangled with his vision of a Eurasian land bridge linking all the world’s continents via, in part, the Bering Strait) and more with New York’s late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who in 1988 organized the Maglev Technology Advisory Com mittee. It was the first of many congressional committees, none of which ever allocated more than token funding to about a half-dozen approved maglev projects."

"While we have been dreaming about floating trains, Europe has been methodically threading its cities together with a sophisticated high-speed rail network. The French TGV, a conventional train with earthbound steel wheels, broke the land-speed record last year, hitting 357 miles an hour on a test track. Asia, too, has invested in high-speed rail: the famous Japanese bullet trains have been in operation since the 1960s, and Beijing’s new high-speed line, which debuted for the Olympics, can go as fast as 220 miles an hour. Even Argentina is about to build a 440-mile-long high-speed rail line. What do we have? Well, we’ve got the Northeast Corridor, where Amtrak’s Acela Express can, on a good day—and only on two short stretches in Rhode Island and Massachusetts—reach 150 miles an hour. And, apparently, we’re gearing up to spend an estimated $12 billion linking our two most significant tourist destinations."

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