A Supertrain Solution?

by Virginia Fairweather, Editor in Chief; Civil Engineering, 345 E. 47th St., New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1990, Vol. 60, Issue 2, Pg. 50-53

Document Type: Feature article


A high speed steel wheel rail line has been highly successful in France, where ridership has been very high. Financial backers were paid back in seven years, half the projected payback time. A second line of the French high speed train system started operating in September of 1989. Many other European nations have plans for high speed rail with the idea of linking the European Economic Community. There are several technologies, but the two major types are steel rail and magnetic levitation, or maglev. Both types can go as fast as 300 mph, and both are being promoted in the U.S. as solutions to our traffic congestion and air pollution problems. Private sector consortia have put together finance, build and operate packages in several areas and projects are about to proceed in Texas, Florida and between Las Vegas and Anaheim, Calif. Legislation to fund research program on maglev has been introduced, and other programs focus on both types. The optimum distance for these systems is at least 200 miles. Links to airports are thought to be a major application. High speed steel rail can run on conventional tracks for access to existing train stations; maglev cannot. However, steel rail has a maximum gradient of 5%; maglev has no such limitation.

Subject Headings: Rail transportation | Magnetic levitation trains | Air traffic | Railroad stations | Project management | High-speed rail | Traffic congestion | Air pollution | United States | France | Europe | Texas | Florida | Las Vegas | Nevada

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