That’s the message of this paper from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The writers point out the American safety regulators require passenger rail cars to be much heavier than European regulators do. But over the years, they say, the European cars have proved just as safe, and perhaps more so.
The problem is that Amtrak and other passenger rail authorities set out to provide higher speed service, they can’t buy rail cars commonly used in Europe. Cars must be custom designed–which has produced real problems, as those Amtrak encountered with the Acela. It also means that American rail cars can’t go as fast as European cars can. European models, they say, could get from Washington to New York in two hours and 15 minutes. The Acela takes half an hour longer.
I’ve been skeptical about most U.S. high-speed rail projects. But perhaps the changes in regulation the CEI authors advocate could make it feasible in more places. It sure would be nice if a day’s DC-NY round trip took four and a half hours rather than five and a half.