Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Chuck Wilder Show Radio Interview, 2/16/10


It’s not a “should do” thing – it’s a MUST DO. First, because HSR will increase employment, and career opportunities will increase dramatically; economic recovery would stabilize nationally – and very quickly. I should probably qualify that and say “if it’s done properly and is a national project rather than an Obama Administration 85-mile route in Florida,” economic recovery will stabilize nationally.

Local, State and Federal tax revenues would stop their drop into oblivion. Is there a city or town that didn’t think the gravy train would go on forever – and are suffering mightily from their over-spending and lack of saving for economic downturns?

Second, we MUST do it because the rest of the world is passing America by in the world of transportation. This isn’t about winning a competition, it’s about increasing our capacity to produce and compete with other nations effectively.

Japan implemented its first HSR train in the mid-1960s. On any given day in France, more than 450 high-speed rail trains are running. Another 40 are in use between the U.K. and the Continent. In China, they have opened – or are set to open – 42 high-speed rail lines. Numerous lines have already been opened.

What does Obama give us? An 85-mile route that links Tampa with Orlando – and that isn’t high-speed rail, at all. Instead, it’s rapid transit. Are Obama and Biden so uninformed that they don’t know the definition of “high-speed rail”? Or, are they telling us they want to spend money we don’t have on high-speed rail that isn’t really high-speed rail? Every day we lose is costing us money. Thanks to the irresponsible monetary policies of the Federal Reserve System, inflation will make it twice as costly to do high-speed rail in the future. We’re uninformed by the mainstream media and that’s why talk radio is so important.


People talk about the cost of high-speed rail, but it is tens of billions less costly than the alternative – expanding highways and airports to accommodate population growth. And, the environmental advantages to HSR ARE PHENOMENAL – far better than jets, buses and cars. People who think it’s costly to build a high-speed rail train need to check with Boeing to find out the cost of building planes (that carry far fewer people) for the airline industry. Of course, the government doesn't own the airlines – yet – but wants to own high-speed rail.


A. High-speed rail trains exceed 150 m.p.h. China’s newest trains average 222 m.p.h.
B. Rapid transit trains average between 75/100 to 150 m.p.h.
C. Traditional Rail – or, Amtrak – travels from zero to 75/100 m.p.h.

It’s important for listeners to know this because if they don’t, when Barack Obama or Joe Biden say “high-speed rail” but provide an 85- or 90-mile train route which, in reality, is “rapid transit,” no one will understand they are being had – that Joe and Barack really aren’t talking about high-speed rail. They say they’ll build high-speed rail – which is more costly so they need more money – but instead plan to build less-costly rapid transit. They’re promising one thing and doing another. Rapid transit – the Obama/Biden plan – does nothing to make America more competitive with rail systems in China, Japan, France and Germany.


1. The newest HSR trains don’t rely on locomotives pulling or pushing them. Power is distributed throughout the undersides of the train cars. Again, a total difference between rapid transit and traditional rail.

2. In addition to track beds and rails and fences and signals and new train depots that need to be built, we will need a new electrical grid – a system with substations (nuclear/non-nuclear). Can the government afford that? I don’t think so! That’s why it requires a private investor who is experienced in the field and knows what he’s doing. If Obama and Biden can’t even define high-speed rail properly, how in the world can we expect them to build it?

3. That’s why so many new jobs will be created if high-speed rail is constructed nationally. You don’t get those jobs by building an 85-mile long rapid transit route in Florida and calling it high-speed rail.


One thing I like about the AmeriRail HSR plan is that the company will hire and train our veterans who are returning from the Middle East. Here’s what their statistics say about job creation:

1. Within 60 days: 100,000 new career employees;
2. Within 120 days: 300,000 additional new career employees;
3. Within 180 days: 600,000 additional, new career employees;
4. Within 270 days: 200,000 additional, new career employees;
5. Within 365 days: 300,000 additional, new career employees;
6. Within 18 months: 500,000 additional new career employees.

The AmeriRail plan results in two million new career employees for at least five years – that’s Private Sector, not government/public sector jobs.

That sounds like a lot of jobs, but in China, 110,000 jobs were created for one 820-mile high-speed rail route from Shanghai to Beijing. Another plan, created by the State of Florida (not by Joe Biden or Barack Obama or the federal government) for its high-speed rail system, created 40,000 new jobs for that State, alone. Multiply that by 50. The jobs are in construction, manufacturing, operations, maintenance, etc. The AmeriRail plans call for coast-to-coast construction, East/West and North/South. A copy of the company’s map is available at my blog:


At peak times, more than 1,000 people leave Paris every 30 minutes for Lyon – and those trains are full. Why? Because for every 621,000 miles HSR trains travel, there are only FIVE MINUTES of delays. Those statistics came from the French.


In the almost 50 year history of high-speed rail, not a single death has occurred. The technology is so great, the precautions taken so specifically defined, there have been no deaths.

If a train gets close to another train ahead of it, it slows down automatically – or it shuts down altogether if it gets too close.


The airlines are poorly run and, as a result, are in financial trouble. Add a bad economy to that scenario and they are in a lot of financial trouble. Their lobbyists must be fighting hard against high-speed rail because it will cut into their already hurting cash flow. Experience around the world proves that consumers choose high-speed rail, not airplanes, for trips of three-hours, or less. There go the flights between Chicago/ Cincinnati/St. Louis/Minneapolis and between Denver/Salt Lake City/Phoenix, etc. Actually, high-speed rail would allow the airlines to go back to what they were intended to do: Carry passengers on long flights and stop socking it to people who need only travel short distances but must pay an arm and a leg for a 300 or 400 mile trip.

Too, the Federal Rail Administration just doesn’t have a clue when it comes to high-speed rail. In my Canada Free Press article, I refer to the terrible “Business Plan” created for high-speed rail by that agency. I mention that the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, focused on safety to a point that makes it impossible to build an American high-speed rail system. In a June 2009 New York Times article, those affiliated with European high speed rail are quoted as saying: “The FRA has largely focused on requiring trains to demonstrate crash worthiness, whereas in Europe and Asia the emphasis is on avoiding crashes.” Maybe that’s why in the almost 50 year history of high-speed rail there has not been a death caused by an accident.

And, bottom line, that’s why private investors who know what they’re doing need to build high-speed rail: They know what they’re doing.


Monday, February 15, 2010













Barnewall: “La Mauvaise Vie?” Is the Story Over?

Canada Free Press, October 26, 2009

There are no national initiatives to bring back U.S. industry or to retain existing businesses

By Marilyn Barnewall Monday, October 26, 2009

One of my favorite newsletters comes from a Canadian writer, Jim Willie. His projections about the North American economy have been right far more often than they have been wrong. He is seldom wrong, in fact. He says America’s story as the leader of the world is over. In his recent newsletter titled “The Golden Jackass“, Willie had this to say:

“It is my contention that the US financial structures broke without any remote potential for repair and revival in the summer of 2007… The system has broken, but the syndicate in control wishes to keep the music going, keep the machinery turning, keep the money flowing, so that they can continue the racket, bury the bond frauds, process the bad paper into USGovt coffers, continue to corner the printing press operations, and continue to con the USCongress into granting more funds. Nobody seeks justice and prosecution for over $1 trillion in mortgage bond fraud. Nobody seeks to remove key Wall Street firms from their command posts within USGovt finance ministries.”

His article continues, pointing out that there are no national initiatives to bring back U.S. industry or to retain existing businesses through reduced taxation and regulatory burdens – which would stimulate start-up businesses.

I agree with Willie that our nation’s financial structures broke in 2007. He may be right that it can’t be fixed. But I believe the big guys have given us a synthetic, imaginary Constitution and Bill of Rights. They synthesized and derivatized our freedoms, our financial markets, and our Rule of Law. They leveraged them many times over and sold them to all takers like ripe Wall Street apples. What those who abused their power created is not reality, though. The phony Wall Street and the too big to jail banks that cannot be brought back to life are what have no potential for repair. They are dying – and they need to get on with it so the real America can be resurrected.

It will be difficult to stimulate industry. There are ways – meaningful ways – to do it. It will take private capital, however, not government money that only piles more debt on the backs of American citizens (some of which have yet to be born).

We need to make clear the forward direction the nation intends to go. One way to do that is to implement a high-speed rail system (HSR). It shouts to the world that we are not only recovering, we are moving forward. It says we welcome the future because we are the future.

HSR can, properly implemented, stimulate several industries. Steel for rails is needed. A new electrical grid is needed. Stations and depots must be built. Since American industry knows nothing about building high-speed rail cars, one of the world’s HSR rail car experts needs to be enticed into opening a plant here, to hire and train American workers.

Following is a list of things that need immediate attention if high-speed rail is to become a reality. It was created by a private company that has been offering since 1995 to build America’s high-speed rail system with zero tax dollars. I know it’s unfamiliar territory for bureaucrats, but “private capital” translates to “zero tax dollars” – which is about what the government currently has in its coffers.

1. Right of Way and Roadbed planning and construction;
2. Roadbed equipment and engineering; with vehicular traffic tunnels;
3. Hi-Speed Train engines and passenger railcars,
4. Civil engineering studies and FDA/USArmy approvals/modifications;
5. Real Estate and Land procurement;
6. Electrical Power Stations;

a. Westinghouse
b. General Electric
c. Other alternatives

7. Hotel, Depot and Maintenance Facilities: design and construction;
8. Rail Track Assembly Plants (20 buildings, minimum);
9. Electrical Power Stations/Plants (Non-nuclear/Nuclear);
10. Human resources;
11. Vehicle procurement;
12. Metal Tower fabrication and wiring;
13. Overall safety and security programs;
14. Underground electrical, water, gas piping between corridors;
15. Parallel two way emergency and evacuation vehicle roadways;
16. Food Management Services;
17. Emergency Health and Safety Services

The above list provides insight into the minimum one million (that’s 1,000,000) jobs that a privately managed HSR system can create through 2014. Add to that at least 50,000 permanent employees needed to run the system.

Why is government determined to maintain control of HSR development? Anyone who doesn’t understand the government is broke isn’t paying attention. They do not have an extra trillion dollars sitting around to implement a project of this size. Yet they hold out to governors of the States that they are working diligently to move HSR forward. They call meetings and more meetings… and apparently never come to any conclusions.

America’s economic and financial alternatives are extremely limited right now. The objective of government must be survival. Are they smart enough to see that more fraud, more special deals, and certainly more tax dollars aren’t in the cards? Jim Willie is right. If the dolts in DC don’t pull their heads out of – the sand – and realize it’s all tumbling down around their ears while they fiddle, America will, indeed, tumble down a rabbit hole into third world status.

For all of the above reasons, I was interested to read the Federal Rail Administration’s (FRA) “Preliminary National Rail Plan” when I received notice of it last week.

According to a January 17, 2009 article, AlterNet says our Secretary of Transportation is “a conservative Republican with little transportation expertise and almost no experience”

The Plan recently released by the Department of Transportation sure makes me want to go back and re-read that article. Talk about being disappointed. This is not a plan. It could find better placement in a book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Hansel and Gretl leaving crumbs to lead the way out of the National Rail Plan forest. No decisions about anything have been made and nothing firm has been put in place.

A “Plan?” It could be termed a “Compendium of Hopes and Dreams,” or maybe “HSR Through the Looking Glass.” But a business plan or an executive overview it is not. If government can’t write a plan, how can it implement one? I’ve read and written a lot of business plans in my career and they just aren’t that hard to do – if you know what you’re doing.

Never in the history of the United States has critical thinking been more important to the recovery of our economic well being. The economy sits on the brink of disaster, the housing market can’t find a bottom, and unemployment keeps going up as the tax base goes down. And what do we get from government bureaucrats? A “Plan” announcing the FRA hasn’t got a clue about what needs to be done to implement HSR or how to do it.

The Obama Administration announced HSR as a priority in the rebuilding of America’s infrastructure. As someone keenly interested in the economy, I wanted to read the FRA’s Plan. Page three says the Plan will give me “Groundwork for Developing Policies to Improve the United States Transportation System.” It later says: “Although this Preliminary Plan does not generally offer specific recommendations, it identifies a number of issues this agency believes should be considered in formulating the National Rail Plan.” Bureaucratic doublespeak! It identifies issues?

HSR has been around since the 1960s. If it has the priority the Obama Administration says it does, the FRA would have long ago identified “a number of issues this agency believes should be considered…”

The non-Plan put forth by the FRA clearly shouts the reasons the private sector and not government should control this important project. For example, LaHood’s “Plan” identifies safety as the number one issue. Safety’s good – once you have a rail line planned and ready to build so you have something about which to be “safe.”
Reading through the entire report, I find there is no definition of “High-Speed Rail.” Nor is there any definition of “Rapid Transit Rail” (RTR) or “Traditional Rail” (TR). They are all quite different. Yet, the various announcements made to governors around the country use the words “high-speed rail” when the words “rapid transit rail” should be used. In short, they do not know what they’re doing!

The average speed of HSR trains is between 150 and 250 mph. It takes a rather long distance for the high-speed train to achieve top speed, so you don’t want it to stop every 50 miles. RTR averages between 100 and 150 mph and traditional rail averages from zero to 100 mph. HSR moves people across the country very quickly. RTR takes people from a central HSR depot to a variety of locations. Generally, RTR is built and managed by locally-owned independent contractors (some of whom may currently own rail lines and provide only freight service). RTR picks up the people moving job where HSR leaves off.

America’s railroads saw their finest hours and provided the best quality passenger service almost a hundred years ago. Why? Because that was the way the rail system was structured. A major rail line was built across the country – private capital was used, not tax dollars – and a bunch of small railroad companies built rail lines to take people to specific destinations.

I agree that the synthetic, imaginary, phony economy and political system under which America has been living for many years can’t be fixed. The real thing can. The problem is, Washington’s bureaucrats have been living with their imaginary creation for so long they no longer recognize the real thing. The people, however, do.

Luke 14:28: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?”

Who Should Build Our High-Speed Rail System?

News With Views, June 28, 2009

By Marilyn M. Barnewall
June 28, 2009

Why is high speed rail important to economic recovery? Why should you care about it? There is one primary reason and a large number of secondary ones.

The primary reason: High speed rail service in America will either be built by experts who have ownership positions to protect and the expertise to implement intelligent programs; or, it will be built by government.

For example, California’s projected costs for high speed rail are from $33 to $37 billion. Californians, already living in a bankrupt state, need to know that costs of recent rail projects in Denver and Seattle are running 60 to 100 percent above projections. That happens when government builds such projects rather than the private sector.

When government funds projects, for some reason politicians throw good money after bad to pay for cost over-runs. When completed, such projects are often turned over to private investors or government-sponsored entities. They keep the profits. Taxpayers get stuck with original project costs and potential losses. We can all spell Amtrak.

Americans know our rail system has made few – if any – improvements in decades. In fact, Amtrak has regressed. In 1938, a Life Magazine article points with pride to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe which provided service between Chicago and Los Angeles. “Nothing faster” the magazine headline says. The ATSF Railroad made the run (including all depot stops) in 40 hours.

That train was pulled by two 1,800-h.p. Diesel-electric units geared to travel 117 mph and the average speed (including depot stops) was 43.68 mph.

In today’s “modern” America, the Texas Eagle departs Chicago at 1:45 p.m. and arrives in Los Angeles at 9:40 a.m. – three days later. It is 1,747 miles from Chicago to L.A., as the crow flies, -- and we know train tracks take a longer route than crows. The trip requires about 44 hours. The Texas Eagle (at best) averages 39.70 mph. That’s how we can expect government-sponsored projects to run.

Ask yourself how the Interstate Highway system, begun by President Dwight Eisenhower, opened up America for interstate and intrastate trade and travel. Taxes for the treasury increased, too. All of those rest stops, gasoline, food and gift shop purchases, poured tax dollars into State and Federal coffers.

Properly done, high speed rail will do the same for America. Trains traveling up to 200 mph will provide thousands of new jobs and give Americans some much-needed confidence in their country.

The State of Florida bills itself as having “the Most Advanced High Speed Rail Express System Plan in the Country.” Their plan says from 25,000 to 42,000 new jobs will be created. The analysis was done in 2002 by the center for economic forecasting at Florida State University.

In Europe, Japan and China, great progress in rail travel has, in many instances, made trains more popular than air travel… reducing the carbon footprint of air travel.

In Japan, Bullet Trains achieve 200 mph (the record speed is 277 mph… the best average speed which includes stops at depots along the way is 164 mph).

In Japan, you can leave Tokyo on a Shinkansen (translated “New Trunk Line”) Bullet Train, travel an average of 131 mph and arrive at Aomori in three hours and five minutes. The distance between Tokyo and Aomori by rail is about 670 km – or, 402 miles. In America, to go from Chicago, IL to Omaha, NE (431 miles or 694 km) takes 14 hours… an average of 28.71 mph.

The Bullet Trains were implemented by Japan in the mid-1960s and today, using the above example, garner a 67% market share of travel between Tokyo and Aomori. The airlines serve only 33 percent of travel between these two cities.

Speed is important – and construction largely determines the ability to achieve the maximum speed available. In France, when the TGV high-speed operation from Paris to Marseille shortened travel time between the two cities from just over 4 hours to 3 hours, market share jumped to approximately 60%. Prior to that, it carried only 40 percent market share. To gain public support for rail travel and resultant market share, the quality of high speed rail construction is critical.

Under the government plan, stimulus funds for the construction of a regional network of “faster passenger rail lines” will have its hub in Chicago. Big surprise there – hometown boy makes good… and shares the success with political cohorts and cronies. Obama’s words “faster passenger rail lines,” however, are misleading. “Faster passenger rail lines” do not equate to “high speed rail.” If all the Obama administration wants to achieve is make trains faster, it can do what the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe did in 1938: Put two engines on the train and remove the wooden crossties that hold the tracks together and replace them with cement crossties designed to handle faster trains.

Here’s a link to the map provided by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood who has requested stimulus funds to begin high speed rail development.

Because Chicago is home to the man in the White House, we may now define “fly-over country” differently than before. According to the President, it once was that part of America where, in fear of progress, people hold on to their Bibles and their guns. Chicago, under Obama’s “faster passenger rail lines” plan, suddenly emerged as the non-fly over hub of faster rail service. Hmmm… will the nation’s capitol be moved to Chicago next?

Chicago as the hub for high speed rail worries me. My brother lived North of Chicago and for years I drove from O’Hare to his house on the same highway when I visited. After more than ten years, the City of Chicago never completed road repairs on that highway. How can workers employed by government who can’t repair a highway in a timely manner build something as complex as a high speed rail system? How timely will their work be?

When is the last time you saw a government project planned or run efficiently or on budget? Do you recall a government-sponsored program that didn’t hand taxpayer money to political cronies like peppermint candy? One might also ask how many favors will be passed out to elitists… companies like Blackstone, the Carlyle Group, BlackRock, J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and others?

Maybe Acorn will be invited to create a high speed rail hedge fund? As I write this, Carlyle, BlackRock and Blackstone appear to be investing in banks – not bad banks, just banks in difficulty – at bargain prices.

There is an alternative to having government build America’s high speed rail system. A private company has offered a high speed rail deal to the government – years ago. The deal offers high speed rail, not just “faster trains.” It promises to use no taxpayer funds. I repeat, no taxpayer money… just private capital.

To which taxpayers would this private company make high speed rail available? Well, let’s look at another map and compare it with the Obama administration’s high speed rail map.

As you can see, this plan brings high speed rail to all taxpayers – who will NOT be paying for it. If we can let go of our Bibles and guns long enough to buy a ticket, even those of us in fly-over country will have access to high speed rail… and so will our local and state economies. New jobs will stimulate our economies, too. All of the country, not just the select Northeast, Chicago, and California Corridors, get high speed rail under this plan.

The offer says the company will: “Build and PAY without liens or encumbrances a total and complete Hi-Speed Bullet type domestic railroad system, based on existing Japanese/Chinese and/or other alternatives.” The offer further states the company will use American employees, suppliers and fabricators. The plans are thorough. Attention has even been paid to using high speed rail for emergency evacuations… what a difference that could have made for Katrina victims!

THE COMPANY WILL “BUILD AND PAY” is a key phrase. It offers American taxpayers a way to avoid paying the hundreds of billions of dollars the high speed rail program will cost – California alone will cost over $50 billion.

I support the concept of high speed rail – necessary to bring America to a transportation par with Japan, China and Europe. However, I prefer that a company experienced in building high speed rail systems pay for it than have government tax me, my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren.

The routing in the offered plan includes New York to Los Angeles, Florida to Seattle, Florida to Los Angeles, New York City to Seattle, Richmond to Sacramento, Seattle to Los Angeles, New York City to Florida – and Texas to Minnesota via the Chicago Corridor up to Detroit.

The proffered plan for high speed rail includes cities like Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, Denver, Salt Lake City, El Paso, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Phoenix – and many others. Taxpayers in Iowa, Montana and Arizona would gain as much benefit as the Northeast and Chicago Corridors.

Logic tells me the best way to update America’s rail system so it equals the rest of the world is to let experts in high speed rail build the national grid and let local governments using stimulus funds build “faster train service” that connects communities to it.

There is no doubt America will have high speed rail. The primary question is: will we get high speed rail from the private sector? Or, will we get “faster trains” from the public sector? Will an expert build it? Or, will government cronies get the nod?

We need expertise for this project. We need to tell our legislators to keep the intrusive hands of government off high speed rail!

© 2009 Marilyn M. Barnewall - All Rights Reserved

High Speed Rail to Nowhere

By Marilyn M. Barnewall
February 3, 2010

Obama Administration officials are going around America this week (as they did last week) to announce funding for various high-speed rail (HSR) projects. Based on the plans proposed to the American people, the question must be asked: Are President Obama and Vice-President Biden talking about HSR? Or, are they talking about updating financially troubled Amtrak? Is this an attempt to remake an unprofitable rail service into Rapid Transit Rail (RTR) while telling taxpayers they are building a high-speed rail system?

There is a huge difference between HSR and RTR.

The Administration says HSR will create new jobs. If what they are proposing is HSR, they are right. They are also right when they say an investment in HSR can help rebuild the economy. The Obama Administration apparently prefers spending taxpayer dollars to using private capital (which is on the table). I know it is unfamiliar territory for bureaucrats, but “private capital” translates to “zero tax dollars.” Zero tax dollars is about all the American government currently has in its coffers.

I’ve said in other high-speed rail articles that a properly built HSR system can create jobs and stimulate the economy. A Rapid Transit Rail (RTR) system will too – to a far lesser degree. There will be far fewer jobs with RTR than with HSR and they will pay less. They will also offer less long-term employment with good job benefits. The same level of builder expertise isn't required for an Amtrak update as for HSR.

Since the Recovery Panel now has union representation with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, union members should be asking him if he is serving their best interests? Or, is he serving the needs of the Obama Administration? Is non-union labor represented on the Recovery Panel?

Listen closely when President Obama and Vice President Biden talk about high-speed rail.

There are very apparent reasons why the announced Tampa to Orlando or Milwaukee to Chicago rail links cannot possibly be representative of a high-speed line. If it takes a HSR train 25 miles to reach full speed – and it does – and another 25 miles to slow from top speed so it can safely stop, the 85-mile stretch of Tampa-Orlando rail line proposed by Obama provides 35 miles of HSR and 50 miles of RTR. Such a short-distance “link” does not support HSR. It supports RTR.

When people talk about a Tampa-Orlando 85-mile long HSR line or a 90-mile Milwaukee to Chicago rail link, they are either talking Chicago Political Speak, or they are ill informed about the differences between the two systems. HSR is designed to carry people long distances, not 85 or 90 miles. That’s the job of RTR. If President Obama doesn’t know that, he should find out before telling the American people he’s giving them HSR when, in reality, he is spending their tax dollars on rapid transit. At the very least, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, should know the difference.

In his highly viewed State of the Union speech last week, President Obama said his plans should make America’s transportation system more competitive with China (which is building HSR) and Japan (which has had HSR for over 50 years). If he were talking about HSR, he would be right. Implementing short-distance rail links designed to update Amtrak via a rapid transit system will not make America’s rail system more competitive with nations that have real HSR.

To make what I’m saying very clear, the Obama Administration is lying – intentionally or otherwise – to the American people. To be fair, there is another possibility. It is called being uninformed about what one does before committing huge amounts of money to a project, mistakenly telling people one thing when you mean another.

HSR is a national project from which all Americans benefit equally. An Amtrak update using RTR as proposed by President Obama is a series of local projects from which limited areas of the country benefit. The rest of us in fly-over country (where we read our Bibles and hug our guns) get to pay for it.

So why are politicians supporting this project? One answer might be found by evaluating every contract signed by those who profit from each rail line – car rental agencies, contractors who build stations and motels, etc. – to see if any percentage of revenue goes anywhere but to their own bottom lines.

Bureaucrats within the Obama administration have expressed concern that HSR may not generate enough passengers to make it profitable. Based on their “tell them it’s high-speed rail but give them rapid transit deceit,” such fears are justified. An updated version of Amtrak is not HSR and will not draw to it sufficient passenger traffic to make it succeed. And knowing that makes these planned 85 and 90-mile stretches of track even more peculiar choices.

Regardless of what kind of rail service it provides, the new rail routes announced by President Obama in his speech are, in a profit sense, just another bridge to “nowhere.” As I said in my Canada Free Press article of October 26, 2009:

“The average speed of HSR trains is between 150 and 250 mph… RTR averages between 100 and 150 mph and traditional rail averages from zero to 100 mph. HSR moves people across long distances very quickly. RTR takes people from a central HSR depot to a variety of locations.”

Additionally, instead of responding to demand that already exists and is not being well-served by either our failing airlines or our national rail service, the first rail link announced, Tampa to Orlando, will have to create mass transit needs where none have existed. Neither of these cities will likely produce the revenue base offered by more heavily populated areas. Revenue comes from connecting densely populated areas to one another.

Is this a test case to make HSR (as fed to and perceived by the public) fail? Call RTR high-speed rail and if it fails, it provides an undercover boost to an ailing airline industry by removing competition from the marketplace. The choice of locations and the confusion about HSR versus RTR makes the test cases suggested appear like an underhanded way of making HSR appear to be a failure when it is not even part of the plan. Instead, it will be an RTR failure… but who will know the difference?

As I said in my June 25, 2009 News With Views article:

“The Bullet Trains were implemented by Japan in the mid-1960s and today ‘garner a 67% market share of travel between Tokyo and Aomori. The airlines serve only 33 percent of travel between these two cities.’

“Speed is important and construction largely determines the ability to achieve the maximum speed available. In France, when the TGV high-speed rail operation from Paris to Marseilles shortened travel time between the two cities from just over 4 hours to 3 hours, market share jumped to approximately 60%. Prior to that, it carried only 40 percent market share. To gain public support for rail travel and resultant market share, the quality of high speed rail construction is critical.”

With 50 years of marketing analysis available proving high speed rail not only competes effectively with the airlines but also can earn a majority of market share, why were these short-distance Pork links chosen? In the Florida example, it doesn’t serve a majority of the state’s residents or its tourists. So what reasoning lies behind it?

It is particularly disgusting to watch this happen because, since 1995, a private investor has been trying to get the American government to let him invest his own money – no taxpayer dollars involved – to build a national HSR system. His plans are so thorough they include evacuation routes to quickly move people from areas likely to face hurricanes – and those plans were approved by one of the States facing hurricanes each year. The plans he submitted to the government in 1995 are detailed and provide a national, not regional, system.

Who is this “investor?” An American born and raised in Wisconsin. Following is his list of things that need immediate attention if high-speed rail is to become a reality.

1. Right of Way and Roadbed planning and construction;
2. Roadbed equipment and engineering; with vehicular traffic tunnels;
3. Hi-Speed Train engines and passenger railcars,
4. Civil engineering studies and FRA/USArmy approvals/modifications;
5. Real Estate and Land procurement;
6. Electrical Power Stations;

a. Westinghouse
b. General Electric
c. Other alternatives

7. Hotel, Depot and Maintenance Facilities' design and construction;
8. Rail Track Assembly Plants (20 buildings, minimum);
9. Electrical Power Stations/Plants (Non-nuclear/Nuclear);
10. Human resources;
11. Vehicle procurement;
12. Metal Tower fabrication and wiring;
13. Overall safety and security programmes;
14. Underground electrical, water, gas piping between corridors;
15. Parallel two way emergency and evacuation vehicle roadways;
16. Food Management Services;
17. Emergency Health and Safety Services

President Obama said in his State of the Union address that China is building high-speed rail, and asked why can’t we? I wanted to shout: “Because we are bankrupt and China is not – and what you are suggesting is not HSR!”

Now we have a bridge AND a badly defined rail system (which, in reality, is Amtrak on rapid transit steroids) going to nowhere.

If this Administration does not become more sophisticated in its understanding of how to define rail systems, our economy may well be an unwilling passenger heading for the same destination.

© 2010 Marilyn M. Barnewall - All Rights Reserved