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Trump again laments lack of US high-speed rail; visiting Japan PM offers help.

Posted on Feb 13, 2017

Trump again laments lack of US high-speed rail; visiting Japan PM offers help."From Washington, D.C. to New York, where Trump Tower exists, only one hour would it take if you ride the maglev train..."

Donald Trump has continued to voice his discontent at America’s lack of high-speed rail during a meeting with top airline executives at the White House last week. It’s an issue Trump mentioned several times prior to being President, and he has, in his own style, returned to the challenge now he’s in the Oval Office. The previous Obama administration spent over $9 billion improving passenger rail service across the country, yet America remains one of the few Western nations without high-speed rail. No trains in the US travel in excess of 150mph, with most going much slower.

In a meeting, described as a ‘listening session’ between the new administration and business leaders, and attended by the CEO’s of Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines among others, Trump stated; “You go to China, you go to Japan, they have fast trains all over the place…I don’t want to compete with your business, but we don’t have one fast train.”

Last week also saw a visit from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who after his meeting with Trump on Friday 10th February in his remarks (full transcript) mentioned investment by Japan in the USA, and then veered into high-speed rail and what Japanese companies with expertise in this area could deliver:  

“With President Trump taking on the leadership, I’m sure there will be — major-scale infrastructure investment will be made, including the fast-speed train.

Those of you who have rode on the Japanese Shinkansen, I’m sure you would appreciate the speed, the comfort and safety with the latest maglev technology. From Washington, D.C. to New York, where Trump Tower exists, only one hour would it take if you ride the maglev train…. Japan, with our high level of technical capability, we will be able to contribute to President Trump’s growth strategy. There will be even more new jobs being born in the United States.”

Even before he began his campaigning, Trump touched upon this theme in a wide-ranging conversation with the UK newspaper the Guardian in October 2015; “We have to spend money on mass transit…We have to fix our airports, fix our roads also in addition to mass transit, but we have to spend a lot of money. China and these other countries, they have super-speed trains. We have nothing. This country has nothing. We are like the third world, but we will get it going and we will do it properly and, as I say, make America great again.”

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The lack of US High-speed rail when compared to China was again a theme at a speech (go to 47:13 for the rail section) in March 2016 on the campaign trial in Portland, ME when he pushed the difference between there and the USA: “You go to China, they have trains that go 300 miles an hour. We have trains that go ‘Chug, chug, chug.’ And then they have to stop because the tracks split, right? There’s trains in China, Japan a lot of countries, we’re like third world…”

Editor's comment: Trump has remained true to his campaign commitments in his first month in office, from the wall with Mexico, to rolling back Obamacare and a block on travellers from selected predominantly Muslim countries  his focus is on several key areas he campaigned upon. What has also been consistent with his campaign, is a lack of detail on how exactly these plans are to be executed. And at the core of this lack of detail, is a gap in how these developments are to be financed, and this is just as true when it comes to high-speed rail. Significant additional investment for rail transport in a Republican-led Congress would seem unlikely. This would leave a greater role for private investment, in the form of the Public-Private Partnerships seen in Europe.

Or perhaps, here’s an idea… in parts of Africa, China both fund and build rail networks. They have now have over 20,000km of high-speed line, the first 10,000km took 11 years and the total has since doubled in only three years, and is expected to nearly double again by 2025 and reach 45,000 km in 2030. As part of his efforts to charm Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, and prove he will make a business deal with anyone, perhaps he could out-source his high-speed plans to Beijing?


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