High Speed Rail: Economic Benefits

“Transportation is the backbone of America’s economy. Our country cannot successfully compete in the global economy if we fail to invest adequately in our domestic transportation infrastructure.” explained Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of The United States Conference of Mayors.

High-speed rail (HSR) is a type of rail transport that operates significantly faster than traditional rail traffic, using an integrated system of specialized rolling stock and dedicated tracks. The maximum speed of high-speed rail is 268 mph, which holds the speed record for commercial train service. HSR project could help to drive the local economic growth in a tremendous way, especially for Chicago, the third largest city in the United States. So the following are three main economic benefits for operating high-speed rail service in Chicago.

Benefits to employment:

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HSR service would support new startups development and create new job opportunity. “In Chicago, up to $6.1 billion per year in new business, including up to $3.6 billion per year in GRP growth and up to 42,000 jobs” .

 

Benefits to tourism:

Cikaga_2HSR’s projected larger flow of passengers will lead to increased tourism and business travel, generating additional spending at local hotels, restaurants and retail stores. “Projections show that by 2035, HSR can annually add roughly $42 million in the Chicago area”.

 

Benefit to environment:

Produktionsstart für russischen Hochgeschwindigkeitszug/ Start oHSR access will also allow travelers without cars to reach destinations previously only accessible by automobile. Beyond cost and time savings, HSR will have a positive impact on the environment as each rail car can remove as many as 200 vehicles from the road, producing up to ten times less CO2 per rail trip than the equivalent number of road journeys. “By switching to high-speed rail, we not only vastly reduce fuel and carbon dioxide emissions, but also improve traffic flow, ultimately reducing America’s annual fuel use. Our calculations show that just in the city Chicago studied, a high-speed rail system would reduce annual carbon emissions for intercity travel by 0.7 million tons a year. This translates to a reduction of more than one-twelfth of the total carbon currently generated by intercity travel in the Chicago.”

 

Siemens High Speed Rail Tourhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uHx04VvEgM

Citation:

U.S. conference of mayors report details significant economic impact of high-speed rail. (2010, Jun 14). PR Newswire Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.wisc.edu/docview/375390722?accountid=465

 

Building a High Speed Rail System Like It Is 1892

1982-CRHThe other day I came across a report published by the University of Illinois’s Railway Technology Center, entitled “Privatization Versus Public Works for High-Speed Rail (HSR) Project by Tsung-Chung Kao, Yung-Cheng (Rex) Lai, and Mei-Cheng Shih.  Essentially this paper compares two very similar high speed rail projects in Taiwan and South Korea.  The Taiwan HSR was a private franchise while the South Korean HSR was funded and managed by the government.  No surprise but the private Taiwan high speed rail system came in closer to the budget and closer to the planned start date than the government run endeavor in South Korea.  In fact, some of the reasons for delays in South Korea seem comical.  For example, just naming a station became a long and difficult process.  Then again, there was the South Korean Buddhist nun who staged multiple hunger strikes in protects of the tunnel being built UNDER a mountain.

So can you guess which side the US high speed rail project falls into?  Yea, with the amount of lawsuits with California’s HSR program, the debacles in Wisconsin, now a potential scandal in Florida’s with All Aboard Florida, and of course the fact that Acela only operates for 150 mph for 28 miles…I think we might be making the South Koreans look like All Stars.

The tough part is, to be successful a high speed rail system really needs to be a bi-partisan endeavor.  Really, a high speed rail project will bring benefits that both the Democrats and Republicans can both claim as successes.  However, instead rail has become a highly polarized issue which in the end just makes any railroad program look like a pork barrel project.

However, perhaps we need to get into the hot tub time machine and go back to how most of our public rail systems today were originally built.  For example, in the 1800’s Chicago wanted a mass transit system.  So what Chicago did was offer franchises to companies that would build the system.  Under this franchise agreement the company would build and operate the system, with an option to transfer after a certain lease period.  Now, it’s not to say that there wasn’t a lot of corruption in allocation of the franchises…this was 19th Century Chicago after all.  However, the Chicago L system got built by such companies as the South Side Rapid Transit Railroad Company and the Lake Street Elevated Railway Company. Now technically those companies that built the rail eventually did go bankrupt; BUT a transit system got built with minimal public funds and built more efficiently than had the city of Chicago built the system itself.

Now get back into the hot tub and let’s travel back to 2014.  This type of arrangement still exists today.  In fact, this is how airlines typically build their airline terminals.  For example, if at Washington’s Dulles International United Airlines were to build a new F Concourse; United would design and pay for most (if not all) of the construction.  However, the terminal is actually leased from the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA).  If United were to build and then leave Dulles, the lease would expire and concourse F would be given back to the MWAA (an ultimately the State of Virginia). Essentially MWAA gives United Airlines a franchise.

In a similar fashion, this is how Denver is expanding its transit system to Denver International and its Eagle 3 consortium.  Essentially private industry takes the risk (and potential rewards) under the direction of a government agency (and not politicians).

So why can’t we just have the government issue a rail franchise to a private consortium and provide cheap capital/financing to that company…like the Taiwanese?…I don’t know, but it makes more sense to me than the current situation.

After all, imagine what the internet and the world wide web have looked like today if politicians had built the first web browser (which btw the first web browser, Mosaic, was also developed also at University of Illinois – Champaign).  It would have taken 20 years longer.  There would have been no Netscape, Firefox, or Chrome; and Alta Vista would still be the primary search engine (too bad Google). Also, the states of Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida would have opted out of the internet citing that the itwould be a complete waste of money.  After all, who would really want to use a computer at home to buy stuff from a bookstore called “Amazon” or a song from an iTunes; when there are so many good stores down right down the street.

… Perhaps we should start thinking like those in 1892 again.

Hey Wisconsin, Let Me Save You A Few Million Dollars

Talgo WISDOT Train

Talgo WISDOT TrainI just read an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal about how Talgo Inc. is cleared to sue the state of Wisconsin for train sets that were built back in 2010 to replace the 30+ year old train sets being operated by Amtrak.

As a little bit of background, in 2009 Wisconsin Governor Doyle signed an agreement with Talgo Inc to produce two train sets, and setup a maintenance facility in Milwaukee.  As per the contract, Talgo built the facility and the train sets, and was ready to employ 800 to 1000.  However, in 2010 the Walker administration made true on a campaign promise and cancelled not only the construction of the Milwaukee to Madison high speed rail line, but also refused to take delivery of the train sets citing that the WISDOT did not certify the train sets for entry into service.  However, to me this is more of a tactic to avoid full delivery and liability

So on May 19th, 2014 Talgo was cleared to sue the State of Wisconsin for $66 million (essentially the cost of producing the train sets).  Which to it seems to me be a pretty clear cut case.  So what are Wisconsin’s choices?  First, choice would be putting off the court case until after the November Governors election and let the next administration deal with the problem.  Of course, there is the option to fight the case in court.  However there is another possibility…

I estimate that Railflyer would need about $50 million in start-up financing.   What about backing Railflyer?  Not only would a lawsuit be taken off the books, but a place is found for the train sets.  After all, Talgo will what they really want and that is selling the train sets providing support maintenance.  Also, the airlines increase the reliability of their Milwaukee to Chicago operations, and Wisconsin even saves $6 million over the next ten years since Railflyer would not require the $600,000 in subsidies that the State of Wisconsin currently pays Amtrak to operate the Hiawatha Service?

So when do we start?

Learn To Fly Without Wings

Railflyer Train

Railflyer Train Speeding ByThere is a tremendous amount of controversy regarding the investment in high speed rail in the US, and even more controversy regarding the future of the US passenger rail network. However, Railflyer is not about investing in high speed rail. Rather, this is a business plan for launching a profitable passenger rail system in the US; and also laying the ground work for a successful world class high speed rail network.

Instead of having inter-city passenger rail compete with the airlines, Railflyer will work with the airlines in order to replace short and expensive regional jet flights with conventional passenger rail, or high speed rail. Additionally, Railflyer will not only link major airports with secondary US cities, but also continue that same train service from the airport to the major city centers. For example, a train would leave Milwaukee’s Intermodal Station in downtown Milwaukee, stop at Mitchell Field to pick up airline passengers before continuing to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and complete its journey at one of Chicago’s downtown train stations, such as Union Station.

Vision of Rail Travel in 2016

CRH Speeding By
CRH Speeding By

It is 2:25pm and Mr. William Collins has just arrived in Chicago off of flight 1298 from Los Angeles. However Mr. William’s next “flight” is actually United 9337 from Chicago to Milwaukee, which leaves from gate A3 at 3:25pm. This is odd, though, because there is no “A” concourse at O’Hare. However, in 2015, United Airlines installed three gates at the south end of the baggage claim area. In every way, these areas appear like ordinary gates, except that there is no security and the gate leads to a bus loading area rather than a jet bridge.

Mr. Collins arrives at gate A3 20 minutes before the gate closes. However, when the boarding announcement is made, Mr. Collins boards a shuttle bus. Mr. Collins is a little confused, but the reason for the bus is to take Mr. Collins and his 75 other fellow passengers to the O’Hare train station located near long term parking lot “F”. This is because United Flight 9337 is also known as Railflyer Train #337.

In this case, there are two buses which are crowded but not overstuffed. Also, the buses wait until the Railflyer train arrives. It is then that Mr. Collins notices the car with the United’s paint scheme. “How odd” he thinks to himself “That a train could look just like a United Airlines airplane.” It is at that time Mr. Collins disembarks from the shuttle bus and walks across the platform directly into United’s car. Mr. Collins then takes his assigned seat on the train as the last of the checked bags are being loaded into the front of the car. Then at 3:25, Railflyer train 337 departs Chicago O’Hare for Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport. Once the train is moving, the conductor comes through the cabin to check tickets. Soon after that, an attendant rolls cart down the aisle and offers him a beverage. Then after a quick stop in Sturtevant/Kenosha, Railflyer train #337 arrives exactly on time at Milwaukee’s Mitchel field at 4:29pm. Now Mr. Collins had checked luggage, however, on the train he was able to claim his checked luggage. It only takes a few seconds for Mr. Collins to disembark along with his checked bags and walk the 50 feet to his car parked in long term parking lot.

Advantages of Rail over Airplanes

Cost Per Available Seat Mile
Cost Per Available Seat Mile

Due to the nature of short commuter flights, flying regional jets are very expensive to operate because jet aircraft are better utilized on longer flights. This is due to jet aircraft being designed to operate most efficiently when flying above 25,000 feet. However on most short flights, such as Milwaukee to Chicago, these same aircraft might only reach 10,000 feet. Additionally, jet aircraft have thesame ground processing times of 20-30 minutes no matter the flight length; which leads to lower overall aircraft utilization. Meanwhile, a train can make a stop in a city that lasts only a minute. Therefore trains are best utilized for shorter, higher-volume stage lengths. Although trains might be more expensive, when operating small loads and this is what causes arguments about the value of trains. For example:

  • Example: 1 engine & 1 passenger coach with 72 seats = ( 60¢ per Available Seat Mile)

Note: Diesel Multiple Units (MDUs) might offer a low cost alternative (used in Britain)

However, while the fixed costs of operating a train are higher than a bus or a small airplane; trains become very efficient at greater loads. This is due the fact that the incremental cost of adding more passengers is very low. For example, if a train that operated with only 72 seats adds more coaches, that train then become cheaper to operate on a per seat basis. For example:

  • Example: 1 engine & 5 coaches with 360 seats ( 12.1¢ per Available Seat Mile)

Additionally, unlike airplanes and busses, train capacities can be adjusted higher/lower rather easily by adding or disconnecting coaches; or even hitching individual trains together.

Railflyer – A Solution to the Pilot Hiring Crisis

Pilot Crisis
Pilot Crisis
Boeing Address Upcoming Pilot Recruiting Crisis

In the next 10 years there are going to be over 18,000 commercial pilots retiring and very few pilots to take their place.   Plus, due to newly enacted federal regulations (FAR 117) the pilot pool has been significantly reduced due to a requirement that all pilots have at least 1,500 flights hours. Previously, pilots were required to complete only 250 hours (note: most pilots graduate from their training programs with only 250 hours). So today there are very few ways for a pilot to log the additional 1250 hours in order to become an airline pilot. As a result, the regional airlines are not going to be able to operate the vast majority of flights they do today, which could mean the end of most commercial flights from Madison or Milwaukee to Chicago. This may have a devastating effect on Wisconsin’s economy if major corporations decide to move closer to a major airport hub, such as Chicago.   However, Railflyer could fill this opportunity by replacing regional flights with passenger rail.  Specifically, trains use engineers and not pilots.  As a result, instead of a lot of secondary cities potentially losing airline service, what filling that gap with a passenger rail or high speed rail service.

After all, this is what they have done in Europe….

 

Am I Really Trying to Build A Railroad?

Thalyss
Thalyss
Thalyss in Antwerp with the Author

First, I never set out to start a railway. In fact, it all started back in 2010 when Wisconsin’s Governor Walker rejected the federal funds that were to be given to Wisconsin to build a high speed rail between Madison to Milwaukee to Chicago. I downloaded a few high speed rail studies. What I could not figure out is why all of these reports just looked at rail from Amtrak’s point of view. Granted it was great to travel from city center to city center. However, what about the airports? After all, wouldn’t an integrated transportation system work better than a rail system that competes with the airlines?

However, there were a few other influences:

Growing up my Dad had built a model train set in our spare bedroom. However, I have to admit that I always had a little animosity for that train set because he never included an airport. After all, I was all about airplanes growing up.

Then back in ’99 & 2000 I had the chance to ride the Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka, and thought it was pretty cool. Plus I had ridden trains in Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Hong Kong (love their Airport Express), and Britain.  I really liked what I experienced.  They were clean, efficient, and seemed to go everywher.

However, Of course, something else happened that got me started. That was grad school.

First, I love libraries. I don’t know if it is the amount of knowledge available or just the quiet peace. However, one of the first places I go in a city or university is the library and the University of Wisconsin – Madison is no exception. Except, when I went the Wisconsin Historical Library, they didn’t have much on airplanes and airlines. However, that library had A LOT of books on passenger rail.

It turns out, Madison and Wisconsin have a very rich history of passenger rail. So that got me interested.  That’s when I decided to start a research project.  I figured it was a project that would make me stick out to recruiters.  Well, things change and I was amazed when I talked with both American Airlines and United Airlines; and both supported the Railflyer concept.  Holy cow!

So I decided to continue to perform the research and an amazing thing happened…more and more people started to believe in Railflyer.  Proffesors, university staff, and even other students started to follow me.  So this blog will be the up and downs of building a railroad.

Trip Report: MKE-ORD-CHI-MKE

What would be the oddest air/train trip you could take?  Well, would that be driving to Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport, flying to Chicago O’Hare, taking the Chicago’s “EL” to Union Station, then Amtrak back to Milwaukee Airport.

Yes, even I was asking myself – what am I doing?

However, I have to admit that flying between Milwaukee and Chicago has held a special place in my heart.  After all when I was growing up I always dreamed of flying on an airplane, but our family always took road trips to Wisconsin instead.  My parents felt so bad for me that they decided to help me take my first flight.

Yep – that first flight was in June 1985 on an American Airlines 727-100 between Chicago and Milwaukee.

My dad literally dropped me, my mother, and my eight year old brother off at O’Hare.  My Dad then drove up to Milwaukee and picked us all up.  To this day, I can still replay that 20 minute flight in my mind; I was so excited to take my first flight.

The best part – the flight was overbooked and AA wanted to give us vouchers worth 3x what we paid.  However, I wasn’t going to give up my first flight!  I was a determined 11 year old who wanted to fly.

Thanks Mom and Dad!

Anyway, I digress. Let’s flash forward back to today…

I have been reading good things about the Milwaukee Airport Amtrak Station since it opened in 2005. So I wanted to try to do an air/rail connection both at Milwaukee and Chicago.

Boy, talk about two different worlds.

MKEAmtrakDriving into Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport (MKE) I noticed the Amtrak station parking sign, but decided to park in the main parking garage instead.  Not a big deal.  The Amtrak station is located out in long term parking, but I opted to park closer to the terminal for my flight.

MKE is a very interesting airport.  Some parts are overcrowded and dark; such as the check in lobby. In fact, as you enter the first thing you see are all of the TSA baggage scanners.  Luckily I just had a back pack to carry on, but this lobby was not even designed for check in kiosks.  I still had to stand in line behind several other passengers who were checking in their bags.  Finally I was checked in, but what also caught my eye was all of the empty Frontier Airlines check in positions.  Wow, what a change since the Midwest Express days.

Now once up in the main terminal, MKE is wonderful place.  There is a grand concourse before security with an information desk, fast food restaurants, stores, used bookstore, plenty of seating, and even an MKE Aviation museum.  As you can see, this main terminal area reminds me of a modern version of the main waiting halls of the great railroad stations.    This is definitely a great modern design on a classic idea.Mketerminal

Also, from this main waiting you can see the security lines – and my security line to concourse “C” was lengthy.  So I was off to visit my friends at the TSA and the one scanner they had working. Ugh!

Enough said about the TSA and boarding.

As always, nearly every seat was filled on my 50 seat Bombardier RJ200. It was a beautiful day, so I was happy to be in a window seat ahead of the wing, but this airplane is small!  I am 6 feet tall and I think there was only 4 inches of space between the top of my head and overhead bins, not to mention my knees barely making the squeeze.

Luckily, the door was closed on time and we were airborne in just a few minutes.  Of course, the irony about flying from Milwaukee to Chicago is that you are on approach to O’Hare even before you takeoff from Milwaukee.

After our 20 minute flight and landing at O’Hare, it was time for the test to see how easy it is to transfer from O’Hare to Union Station.  I had three options:

1)      Take a cab, which is the fastest but also the most expensive.  Besides this does not count to me as a true “connection”Hiawatha-Schedule

2)      Take Metra’s North Central Service.  By far, this would have been my first choice, but this service operates mainly at rush hours (and not at all on the weekends).  So I could have waited for two hours for the next train; but why?

3)      Finally there is taking Chicago’s “EL” Blue Line, getting off at the Jackson Street Station and then walking two blocks to Union Station (later I found out you want to get off at the Clinton Station, and not Jackson).

Since my goal was to avoid the automobile and Metra would have been too long of a wait; I was left with the Blue Line to Jackson station option.  So I was off the O’Hare Blue Line station under the main parking garage at O’Hare.

Now, for anyone who has never ridden the Blue Line out of O’Hare; O’Hare is probably one of the best stations in the whole “EL” system.  It was built in 1984, underground, spacious, and well lite.  Also, it is the end of the line so usually the next train is already sitting idle.CTABlueORD

So I boarded the Blue Line and prepared for departure.

Now, I have traveled on subways from Hong Kong to New York to London; but I have to admit none compares to Chicago’s – but not in a positive way.  After all, in a city known for notorious winters; why the heck are most stations outside in the middle of an expressway?  Plus these trains were loud and rough.  There is no way you can converse with someone while riding.  Luckily the Blue Line eventually does go underground, but it is still a far cry behind Asia or Europe.  Personally I think Chicago lost its Olympic Bid for the 2016 games because of the “EL”, but that is just my guess.

Once I arrived at the Jackson Station, I was off to try and find Union Station.

I thought it would be an easy walk.  However, being only somewhat familiar with the Blue Line, I ended up walking down the platform in the completely wrong direction.  When I finally popped up above ground I was standing next to the Chase building, which completely threw me off.  Luckily it was a beautiful fall day and I was playing tourist to a certain extent.  So I just started walking.  However, when I saw the Merchandise Mart and the Wrigley Building; I realized I was headed in the completely wrong direction. At least I could follow the Chicago River to the Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower) and Union Station.

All I can say is I am glad that I was just carrying my backpack and not a roller bag/suitcase.

As I was walking, I started thinking –  isn’t it ironic that United Airlines is headquartered in the Willis Tower, which is just right across the river from Union Station, but Willis Tower is miles from O’Hare.

I guess this also means that most United Airlines employees actually take the train to work.

Hmmm. How ironic.

Finally, I was at Union Station.

Well, my ticket on Amtrak was for the 5:08 pm Hiawatha service.  However, these trains are unreserved and as long as you have a valid ticket, you can get on any train.  Very nice; especially if you are traveling for business. So instead I boarded the 3:15 train.

After a 15 minute wait in the boarding area the gate opened up and we were off to the coaches.

There were about 7 coaches, one of them being Amtrak’s quiet car. In this case I opted for one of the non-quiet coaches in the middle of the train.

What a change from my flight.  I think Amtrak coach seats are even more spacious than the first class seats on the regional jets.  Better yet, there was over a foot between my head and the luggage rack above me.

This is the way to travel. Although, sadly no Wi-Fi – yet!

So we left Union Station and …. Headed towards O’Hare? Huh?

We literally went within seven miles of O’Hare before turning north. With a few interchange modifications I see no reason why this train could not stop at O’Hare too.  But Railflyer is working on that.

After a brief stop in Glenview, we sped towards the Wisconsin border.  It was then that I saw something you would never see on an airplane…a group of four business man standing around a laptop working on a PowerPoint presentation.  There was actually enough room for people to meet on the train!

What a change from the regional jet.

After an hour and seventeen minutes we pulled into Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport Rail Station (right on time).  There was a little confusion about where to go (perhaps a few more signs would be helpful), but once outside the station I found the long term parking shuttle that took me and about a dozen of my fellow train passengers to the terminal.  Then it was a quick walk to my car and I was out of the airport.MilwaukeeAirportStation

What makes this trip especially interesting is the travel times.  It took me 2 hours and 45 minutes from the time I left my car in the parking garage at Milwaukee’s Airport to the time I walked off the airplane at O’Hare.  However, it took me only 1 hr. and 45 minutes from the time I walked into Chicago’s Union Station until I was back at my car in Milwaukee.  See the train was actually faster – and we aren’t talking about high speed rail here!

…and a heck of a lot more comfortable than that CRJ 200 Regional Jet!

Another perspective on the Spanish Train Derailment

Sorry. It has been a very busy summer for me so I am finding it hard to take the time to write a new post.  However, I finally had a chance to put my thoughts together on the Santiago de Compostela train derailment in Spain late last month.  What a nightmare!  Talk about an accident that should have never happened.  Even worse, last week it surfaced that the probable cause of the accident is that the engineer was talking on his cell phone at the time with representative from the Spanish rail operator, RENFE!

Not good.  Not good at all.

As you can imagine, I have received a lot of emails from friends about this crash and how it appears to be a setback for the high speed rail effort in the US.

Not so.  Not at all, in fact.

In case you have been in a cave (or stuck on the back of a boat as I have) here is a brief synopsis of the accident.  The train involved WAS a high speed Alvia train used for high speed routes in Spain and is capable of speeds of up to 155 mph (250km/h), however the train WAS NOT operating as a high speed train at the time.  Rather, it was operating as a conventional regional train on conventional tracks.

The train crashed approximately 2 1/2 miles outside of the Santiago de Compostela station on July 24th, enroute from Madrid to Ferrol. Of the 222 people onboard, 140 were injured and 79 died.

However, what has made this derailment truly memorable is that security camera footage of the derailment actually occurring.

Although this accident seems like a huge setback for high speed rail in the US, let’s dissect why this derailment is not a setback.

First, this train was not operating on a high speed line at the time.  It was an express route (similar to Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner Service), and not a high speed route.  Had the track been upgraded to a high speed rail route, the train would possibly not have derailed. In fact, this track was designed to only handle trains at 50 km/h, not the 100 km/h that the train was traveling.

Second, in the US there is a new (and controversial) system being installed called Positive Train Control, or PTC for short.  This is an electronic system that monitors the train’s current speed and compares it to the track the train is running on.  Had the Alvia train had a PTC system, the train would have sensed that it was running faster than the posted speed and would override the engineer and apply the brakes.

Granted in the US PTC won’t (arguably) be fully implemented until 2015 in the US.  However, Amtrak has a PTC type of system already installed on the tracks it wholly owns which is the Northeast Corridor and in Michigan. Also, PTC will become common place before any new high speed networks in the US are built.

Third, there was nothing wrong with the track or the train.  With it now all over the news that the engineer was on the phone while speeding; most people will remember the accident for the engineer being on the phone and not malfunctioning of the equipment.

Finally, when you look at Spain’s overall rail history their rail system is much safer than the US.  For example, between 2000 until 2013, Spain had a total of 5 accidents (not including terrorism) whereby train passengers were injured or killed.  In this same time period the US had over 23 accidents where a train passenger was injured or killed.

Note of interest: on July 3rd, 2006 there was a similar accident in Valeria, Spain where by the train derailed due to over speeding as well.  So perhaps Spain should evaluate a PTC system.

So, while the video of the Alvia train derailing will remain in traveler’s mind for some time, I don’t see it as true setback to high speed rail.  After all, people will just remember it as the train crash due to a cell phone call. In fact, my guess is that this accident will just become one of the many train wreck videos on Youtube.

The unfortunately a lot of people did die or were injured in this derailment.  That is very regretful and reminds me of those text messaging commercials, showing the danger of being distracted.  However, like I mentioned I pretty sure that overall this Santiago de Compostela derailment was NOT a setback for high speed rail in the US.