When thinking of travel on the american rail, modern design, improved comfort and increased privacy to name a few, don’t necessarily come to mind when you take the average rail traveler. Even so, incredible progress has been in the recent years with Brightline nearing completion of its Miami to Orlando line in Florida, deploying its Siemens Venture trainsets on a 170 mile run topping speeds of 125mph. While common among several european countries, travel at high speeds in the true sense has yet to be brought to the american masses.
Brightline, the only privately owned and operated intercity passenger rail company in US, fresh off its success in Florida is expected to break ground this year on a new line, this time on the west coast looking to connect the city of Las Vegas and Los Angeles with speeds averaging 200mph. The company is hoping for completion sometime before the summer Olympics of 2028 that interestingly enough will be held in Los Angeles. The increase in the influx of tourists to the region as a result of a more efficient and safe way to travel is rather difficult to fathom. To the car rental companies, get your stock ready. Think electric.
The new line, nicknamed Brightline West, will connect with the line currently being built by the California High Speed Rail Authority between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a line that while it excites me it seems to be slipping further and further into the future due to increasing costs adding billions upon billions to the final tab putting the entire project in jeopardy. But I remain hopeful in thinking that with additional funds provided by the federal government in the recently passed infrastructure package and strong support from the President of the United States the project will clear all of its hurdles to provide high speed service to the residents of California.
With the private sector making significant headway the federally owned Amtrak is making some progress of its own. It will acquire new trains to be deployed on routes like the Northeast Regional, Empire Service, Virginia Services, Keystone Service, Downeaster, Amtrak Cascades, Maple Leaf, New Haven/Springfield Service, Palmetto, Carolinian, Pennsylvanian, Vermonter, Ethan Allen Express and Adirondack. The trains will be produced by Siemens Mobility at its manufacturing hub in Sacramento, will be called Amtrak Airo and will enter service sometime in 2026 barring any delays which of course are to be expected. Besides investing in replacing its aging rolling stock, investments are being made in electrification, improved safety, various upgrades, improving existing routes to perhaps increase speeds and save passengers valuable time, also considering brand new routes looking to attract and welcome new passengers to the fold.
While it doesn’t own most of the track it operates its routes on, it will take significant willpower in enforcing it rightful dominance on all US rail tracks in ensuring passengers take precedence to freight, it’s instrumental for this to happen for Amtrak to become profitable and compete with the private sector that currently is making leaps and bounds across the board. Lots to work on but also lots to be excited about. As a Las Vegas resident I am impatiently waiting for the maiden voyage of the first Siemens Velaro train that I intend to be on on my way to the Los Angeles looking to reunite with the sandy beaches of Venice and the pier of Santa Monica, two of my all time favorite spots.
I am no train enthusiast, at the very least not yet, to me trains are more than an efficient, comfortable, safe and environmentally friendly mode of transportation, it’s a symbol of progress that hopefully will improve mobility between states to inspire an exchange of experience and ideas, among many things, and make people less ignorant and bigoted. The progress is inevitable whether we’re talking trains or human rights, it will take incredible effort to maintain it and build on it, hopefully more of us will see the value of a good collective effort to ensure that that happens.
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