As large companies like Amazon flirt with the idea of making major investments in the Midwest, transportation experts say the region will have to invest in a high-speed rail system or another transportation concept if states like Ohio want to remain competitive in a changing economy.
» CONTINUED COVERAGE: What is the future of transportation? Ohio looks overseas for answers
Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati and other Ohio cities have been included as potential stops for a Hyperloop route in the Midwest, but some high-speed rail experts think other options are more viable for the region. “I know that it’s something we really need to do if we want to remain competitive. It’s a matter of putting together the right kind of value proposition and making it happen,” said Rick Harnish, executive director at Midwest High Speed Rail Association.
» CONTINUED COVERAGE: Could Dayton see a hyperloop stop? City included in feasibility study
Here are five high-speed travel options that the region could look to for answers:
1. Deutsche Bahn in Germany
A new high-speed rail connection between Munich and Berlin was added in December, seeing a surge of customers because of the route, Deutsche Bahn officials announced last month. Birgit Bohle, head of long-distance travel for the German National Railway Company, said the connection has been a “remarkable success.”
Deutsche Bahn is selling around 15,000 tickets currently per day for the connection.
“The key to their system is that they have a comprehensive, country-wide network that runs on either hourly or twice-hourly service,” he said. “All of the trains show up in the station at the same time, and so you can easily get from anywhere in the country to anywhere else… it’s all very interconnected, the system works in a very cohesive way. Sometimes the trains are only going 80 miles per hour, sometimes they’re on 150-mile-per-hour tracks, and sometimes they’re on 200-mile-per-hour tracks. But because they’ve got a very reliable hourly service… it makes the service very convenient,” Harnish said.
» WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Chicago in minutes? Columbus named as finalist for Hyperloop
2. Beijing South - Tianjin high-speed line in China
China Railway Corporation (CRC) celebrated 10 years of high-speed rail development earlier this month. China has 26,869 kilometers of high-speed lines in operation. That’s about 64 percent of the global total, according to the International Union of Railway.
In June, Ohio transportation officials announced that Virgin Hyperloop One’s technology will be included in a federally-required Environmental Impact Study, marking the first time hyperloop will be considered as a transportation mode in such a process.
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) announced that this step will be taken as part of its Rapid-Speed Transportation Initiative (RSTI), which will include both a feasibility and environmental impact studies (EIS) to explore intercity routes that could utilize two rapid-speed transportation technology options – traditional passenger rail or Virgin Hyperloop One technology - between Chicago, Columbus, and Pittsburgh.
“We are excited to collaborate with these world-class public and private sector partners to connect the Midwest with rapid speed transport that will fuel future economic activity,” said Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd.
4. California’s new bullet train
A new California high-speed rail could cost more than $77 billion, according to a California High Speed Rail Authority draft business plan released in March. The bullet train, which was approved by California voters in 2008, will eventually connect San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Terminal to LA’s Union Station. Some trains could run as early as 2027, according to the draft business plan.
5. UK’s new high-speed rail
Hitachi Rail Europe and Bombardier Transportation announced last month they will work together to build high-speed trains. The trains will operate on a new line connecting London with Manchester and Leeds via Birmingham. The trains will reach speeds of 225mph and could run as early as the 2020s.
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