I recently attended the US High Speed Rail association event in Washington DC. There were over 200 delegates, all excited about the 8 billion dollar incentive carrot posted by the Obama government to help kick off high speed rail. Andy Kunz, president of the USHSR association opened the event with the promise that this is part of a long program to gain support for the birth of high speed rail across America. A 17000km high speed rail network is envisaged over the next 20-30 years expected to cost over 600 billion dollars but will create many millions of new jobs. Andy gave examples of other countries that already have committed over 300 billion each on building an efficient high speed infrastructure, namely Spain and China.
Many congress men and women presented to make their pitch to the Obama billions, with California, Florida, Illinois, Oregan, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas making the first moves. Europe is given as the bench mark and many european railways were there to present past experiences and advice, just like we were to remind everyone that once the tracks are built and the trains are ready there is a need to manage the passengers, through the total trip experience. Technology will play a key role in helping ridership reach its expected figures, customer data, loyalty plans, ticketing, booking, reservations, train re-allocation, the list goes on.
What I did learn though is that there is an awful long way to go but there are some quick wins, if anything we have learned in the past, it's to make good use of the 8 billion and invest in a simple success rather than diluting it across many projects. Pick out 2 large city pairs with a strong business case, both leisure and corporate, and implement it.