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Now, there are many trains that go faster than a US Interstate speed limit that don't come close to Very High Speed rail. After all, there were trains going 100mph more than half a century ago.
Part of emotional force to the characterisation is one of those mode-wars things that have developed between Medium High Speed and Very High Speed rail, because they are typically pushed into fighting over the same pot of money, even though a rational transportation infrastructure investment policy would leave ample funds for the expansion of both.
To get an American handle on the difference between Very High Speed and Medium High Speed, consider a main North American rail backbone with a "Y" at both ends ... Southern California to join a Mexico City to Chicago backbone, and from Chicago to Ontario via Detroit and the eastern seaboard via Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
Focus on the Southern California to main trunk leg. If it is going to go through main population centers, one route may be LA / Phoenix / Albuquerque / Amarillo / Oklahoma City
LA / Phoenix is 358 miles (577km). So if you maintained an average trip speed of 160mph, that would be 2 1/4 hours. At an average trip speed of 100mph, its just over 3 1/2 hours. And that extra 50 minutes is critical for the share of the market between LA and Phoenix.
Phoenix / Albuquerque is 330 miles, so its a similar situation.
Albuquerque / Amarillo is 269 miles ... and a very small market, so if anything have a dominant share could be critical.
Amarillo / Oklahoma City is 245 miles.
And so it goes ... OK City / KS City is 299 miles. KS City / Bloomington IL is 316 miles. Bloomington / Chicago is 118, so KS City / Bloomington / Chicago is 434. At 160mph avg. trip speed, that is 2.7 hours ... at 100mph, 4.3 hours.
Basically, if the US relies on MHS rail, it is restricted to east of the Mississippi and the Pacific Coast. The distances urban centers between the Mississippi and the Left Coast are just to long for MHS technology to serve.
On the other hand, suppose that there is a VHS rail link between Cleveland and New York: Chicago / Cleveland / Pittsburgh / New York. It may well be with that as an anchor, a MHS route between Washington and Pittsburgh (189miles / 304km) becomes viable, and its much easier to bring provide the infrastructure for 100mph trains than for 180mph trains.
I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
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