On the Rails

On the Rails

Why you should care

Because we love trains. 

Service on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor resumed yesterday, about a week after eight passengers died when its D.C.-NYC train derailed outside Philly. The authorities say they’re still trying to figure out what happened: Did the engineer take leave of his senses? Did projectiles play a part? But we’re certain of one thing: The U.S. is way, way, way behind on infrastructure, including rail infrastructure. Forget keeping up with the Joneses: America can barely muster the money or will for basic maintenance, routine upgrades and fundamental protections.

Which is why, when we look across the Atlantic, we salivate. It’s not just Eurostar. In Well, That’s One Way to Fix a Commute, Mike McDowall goes deep into Crossrail, a $23 billion, 73-mile east-west rail service that promises to cut Londoners’ commutes by half. They say it’ll be ready by 2018. Read more here.

Amtrak has special woes, of course: It’s a for-profit company with a board appointed by the U.S. president, and it depends on Congress for its budget. But ambitious rail projects rarely have an easy time, no matter who’s paying for them. In It Takes a Village to Change a City, Sanjena Sathian looks at Atlanta’s BeltLine, a $4.8 billion project that aims to build a light-rail around the city’s perimeter. Fifteen years in, it’s still got 17 more to go. Read more here.

In China, the funding for big dreams comes easier, and you might know that it’s already built the longest rail line in the world — from Yiwu, China, to Madrid, Spain, a journey that takes three weeks. Three weeks! For now, the voyage is lopsided, according to Andrés Cala in By Land or By Sea? Low-cost Chinese goodies can fill an outbound train, but Spanish ham and wine can’t reciprocate on the return trip. Maybe this will change, and the world’s longest rail line will pay off down the line — but you know what they say about the best-laid plans. Read more here.

Comment

OZYWildcard

Square pegs. Round holes.