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High speed rail plans revealed in US

Transport chiefs in the US have announced more than 20 new rail projects following the cancellation of a $2bn (£1.22bn) Florida line.

Plans for several high-speed rail upgrades have been unveiled, with the majority of the funding destined for the congested Washington-New York-Boston route, which will benefit from £486M of work. It will allow trains to run at 250km/h on a line where they are currently limited to 215km/h.

A further £245M has been earmarked for improvements between Chicago and Detroit, where trains will be capable of travelling at 175km/h.

“These are tremendous transportation projects and investments that America cannot do without,” transportation secretary Ray LaHood said at a news conference in New York’s Pennsylvania Station - the nation’s busiest train depot.

Only about £183M will immediately go toward true high-speed rail links like those in Europe and Asia. That money is earmarked for a 350km/h line planned between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The projects being funded by the diverted money range from a train station in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to elevated tracks in Washington state, platform improvements in Rhode Island and engineering studies in Texas.

However, none of the funding has been allocated for two of the most significant rail bottlenecks in the north east of the country.

One is the Portal Bridge, a 100-year-old span in New Jersey that officials say is in desperate need of a replacement; another is the two Amtrak-owned tunnels under the Hudson River. A state and federal plan to build more tunnels collapsed last year after Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey pulled out, arguing it made his state liable for cost overruns.

Instead, £275M will go toward track and power line upgrades to increase speed.

Along with Florida, two other states with Republican governors elected in November have cancelled train projects in their states.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker turned down £495M to build a Madison to Milwaukee high-speed line. Ohio governor John Kasich rejected £244M for a project to connect Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus with slower-moving trains. Both the Ohio and Wisconsin projects had been approved by their Democratic predecessors.

Other projects new rail projects include:

  • £114M to upgrade tracks on the Chicago to St Louis line, allowing speeds of 175km/h over 350km of rails
  • £35M for upgraded tracks, signals and stations along the Empire State line running from Albany to Buffalo, New York
  • £24M to rebuild a rail junction near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • £9M for engineering work to develop a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston.

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