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200 mph in Saudi Arabia, and CrossRail in Chicago Tribune

January 05, 2018

On New Year’s Eve, Saudi Arabia ran an inaugural test train on its new 281-mile high-speed line from Medina to Mecca. (That's almost exactly the distance from Chicago to St. Louis.) The line was designed for maximum speeds of 200 mph (320 km/h), and will be regularly operated at 190 mph (300 km/h).

An end-to-end trip takes about 2 and a half hours, compared to 4 and a half hours driving. The line will be especially important for travelers making the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Our favorite part of this news story, though, is one of the photos provided to the press. It shows a number of Saudi and Spanish officials sitting around a table on the train. (Spain’s national train operator is running the line, and the trainsets are the familiar Talgo “duck” design.)

Although it looks totally mundane, it captures one of the most important benefits of high-speed train travel. You can have a meeting! At (nearly) 200 miles per hour! And your phone works!

Trains offer so many comfort and productivity benefits over air travel and driving, and it’s easy to forget how important that is to making train travel a competitive and sensible choice.

Speaking of sensible, our CrossRail proposal was featured in a letter to the Chicago Tribune by Fritz Plous, a Midwest High Speed Rail Association member. Fritz points out that CrossRail would create easy access to O’Hare from a whole network of destinations, instead of only the Loop. O’Hare is much more than Chicago's airport. O’Hare is the Midwest’s link to the world, and it needs rail access that lives up to that status.

Fritz's letter also reminds us why our members are so important, and how easy it is for an individual to make a difference. Your local newspaper's editorial page is still a great place to get the attention of your community and elected officials.

This week at Midwest High Speed Rail Association

Executive Director Rick Harnish gave a talk about high-speed rail progress around the United States at the Waimea Ocean Film Festival in Hawaii, where the temperature never dropped below 60 degrees.

Articles we enjoyed

The limited thinking behind the O'Hare-Loop high-speed rail idea (Fritz's letter to the Chicago Tribune)

All Aboard! Metra To Buy More Locomotives

Rail safety deserves to be a higher priority

Infrastructure bank could be 'key' for U.S.-Canada high-speed rail: study

Winter Olympic KTX line inaugurated

High-speed rail to cover over 80% of China's large cities by 2020