California groundbreaking offers a new option for USA

The groundbreaking ceremony of California’s long planned high-speed railway from San Francisco to Los Angeles on January 6 marked a real milestone in rail travel in the United States, and it’s hard to think of any part of the industry that won’t benefit, including signalling.

The route has to be signalled with Positive Train Control – it’s the only interoperable technology in North America that can provide the Automatic Train Protection that high-speed rail needs – and it could just be that it provides a much needed fillip to the technology. It will also provide a much needed alternative to European Rail Traffic Management System, which is becoming a de facto standard for new high-speed railways all over the world.

So it’s all eyes on California’s high-speed dream. We wish them well in turning it into what we hope is a game changing reality.

High Speed to the future

High-speed rail has had a sizzling few days, with the UK’s announcement of its planned network and the submission of bids to build the first 29 miles of California’s high-speed rail network on January 25.

Neither project is without controversy, with opponents and supporters making their cases in loud and often unsubstantiated fashion. Given that neither country has much experience with high-speed rail, it’s instructive to look at the independent study Invensys Rail commissioned into the benefits of high-speed rail not too long ago.

The key findings – based on proven global experience – are that high-speed rail offers proven lower journey times, reduced congestion on other modes, better access to markets and commerce, lower carbon footprint compared with road and air travel, and proven creation of industrial growth and export opportunities.

The report is essential reading for anyone with an interest in high-speed rail – even the biggest sceptics are likely to be surprised by its global success.