Front Page Talking Points


Swift and sleek: Amtrak is closer to saying 'all aboard' for a new era of high-speed rail travel


1.gifFind other coverage of something new, inventive or costly. Describe it.

2.gifLook for a transportation-related photo. Where is it from?

3.gifSummarize any other travel news.

A new type of train is flying along the tracks between Boston and Washington, D.C., as the Amtrak passenger rail system tests red, white and blue Avelia Liberty locomotives and coaches. The federal government this year OK'd trial runs without passengers after years of delays, redesign and safety disputes. The sleek Liberty trains have a long, skinny nose – an aerodynamic design that allows speeds of up to 160 miles per hour. They're made of aluminum and carbon steel instead of the heavier steel used in current trains, and tilt on curves for a faster and smoother ride.

The 28 new trains, which Amtrak says will go into service next year, replace an Acela fleet that was supposed to go out of service eight years ago. The newcomers are made by the same French company that builds that country's superfast TGV "bullet trains" – which have a top speed near 200 m.p.h. Europe and two Asian countries are decades ahead of America in adopting rail technology called maglev because it's based on magnetic levitation. Trains sit on electromagnets that push away from each other when powered, which makes the coaches and locomotive float on a cushion of air. That eliminates wheel friction that limits regular trains' speed. China and Japan are developing maglev trains that can exceed 300 m.p.h., though aged U.S. tracks can't handle speeds above 160.

While we've focused on building highways and airports, China has laid over 28,000 miles of high-speed rail in the last 15 years to connect every major city. Now America is scrambling to join the modern rail era, and President Joe Biden approved billions of dollars for new lines. Projects around this country include a Los Angeles-San Francisco connection that should be partly open by 2030. In Texas, first-stage planning has begun for a 90-minute rail link between Dallas and Houston, a 240-mile route. And in Florida, a 125 m.p.h. non-Amtrak train called Brightline links Miami and Orlando, Fla., with work under way on a 170-mile extension to West Palm Beach.

Industry executive says: "It's probably the biggest moment yet for high-speed rail in America." – Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High-Speed Rail Association

Builder says: "Passengers will soon discover a brand-new travel experience on the busiest rail corridor in America." – Cliff Cole, spokesman for Alstom, the French manufacturer of the new trains

Northeast Corridor: Cities on the Acela route include Providence, R.I., New Haven and Stamford, Conn., New York City and Philadelphia.

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2024

Front Page Talking Points Archive

Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.