Solutionary Rail: “Higher” Speed Rail

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Above Photo: From Solutionaryrail.org

Rail Electrification Options: Why Solutionary Rail recommends starting with “Higher” Speed Rail

Currently, the buzzword for rail travel is “High Speed Rail.” The term is being used broadly, but what does it mean? Brightline in Florida is being called “high speed,” even though it travels at just 79 mph. So what is High Speed Rail and what are our best options? What about freight transportation – should the bulk of freight continue to be carried by trucks?

Drilling down a little, there’s a difference between ultra-high speed bullet train rail, high speed rail, and what Solutionary Rail advocates, “higher speed rail”:

  • Higher Speed rail (HrSR) – meaning moderately faster than current rail — refers to maximum speeds of 80 mph for freight and 125 mph for passengers.
  • High Speed rail (HSR) – even faster — refers to mostly passenger trains traveling typically 150 mph and up to 200 mph.
  • Ultra High Speed rail (uHSR) – very fast “bullet trains” – refers to passenger trains traveling over 200 mph.

Why does Solutionary Rail recommend starting with Higher Speed Rail (HrSR) rather than with faster high-speed trains? It’s not an “either/or” choice, but consider this:

  •  Solutionary Rail’s plan for freight and passenger trains traveling at higher speeds (HrSR) of 80-125 mph require simply upgrading the tracks we have now, on the corridors we have now, and electrifying the system with high-voltage overhead power lines – sooner and for much less money than building a network of faster high speed passenger trains.
  •  Solutionary Rail’s plan includes a return of more high-value freight to the railroad and therefore a reduction in the number of trucks on the highway, relieving congestion and reducing wear and tear on our roads, in addition to providing a viable alternative to air travel for passengers.
  •  Solutionary Rail’s plan for an upgraded, electrified rail system does not rule out faster, high-speed and ultra high speed passenger rail where these makes sense. Solutionary Rail’s “higher speed” option could lay the groundwork for faster HSR by laying HSR-grade track whenever there is an opportunity to.