High Speed Rail systems are those that tend to have a top speed of over 125mph for regular use. Most high speed trains are electrical and are fed via overhead cables. Trains that run using magnetic levitation often also fall into the high speed bracket (High Speed Rail).
A well laid out High Speed Rail system acts as a good connecting link between distant places as it can offer non-stop services. Thus, High Speed Rail reduces the strain on other modes of travel. High Speed Rail is Eco-friendly with less carbon dioxide emission, as a larger number of persons are carried using lesser resources. That is, less energy is consumed per passenger kilometer by the High Speed rail as compared to either road, or air travel. Also, less space is required for High Speed Rail, as compared to roads.
High speed Rail is a lot faster than the highest allowed speed for any automobile. So, with longer journey's, the time savings increase substantially. Also, the rail systems allow up to five times more traffic per hour than a road having the same width. The Highway Capacity Manual limits the maximum to 2,250 passenger cars per hour while the High Speed Rail will allow 12,000 passengers per hour.
Air travel is much faster than any train, but the High speed Rail gains in many ways. High Speed Rail have shorter stops, and can connect city centers to each other; while air travel typically requires at least half hour stops and connects cities via airports that are at the periphery of the cities. Also, more frequent stops are possible with trains. Thus, when calculating the time spent going to and from the airports, High Speed Rail is found more efficient than air travel for shorter distances of 100-400 miles.
High speed Rail is also more convenient in terms of baggage checking and security checking timings. It also offers perks like allowing mobile phone use, and laptop use, including Internet connectivity. There are also fewer weather related problems. The one shortcoming the train faces is that there is limited luggage storage space.
While legislation and easy access to air travel had initially pulled people away from rail travel, the High Speed Rail provides the possibility of a new lease of life. It is safe and fast. It is also answers more convenient and has less security issues than air travel. It is being seen as a successor to the conventional modes of train travel.
Logistically, the High Speed Rail in the U.S. is drawn form similar models in Japan and in Europe.
High Speed Rail is relatively new in the U.S. but many states of United States of America are showing interest and are studying the possibilities opened up by the High Speed Rail. The U.S. Department of Transportation is looking into the possibility of six different corridors.
Since the Clinton government in the 1990's, there has been legislative support for the use of High Speed Rail, but except in the North East Corridor, there has not been a very great amount of work done.
Thanks to the US government’s initiative, Amtrak operates the Acela Express trains (top speed of 150mph) that ply between Boston and Washington D.C. Before 2001, it operated the Metro liners which also were High Speed trains. Penn Central started its Metroliner service in 1969.
There is hope that this trend will grow to provide convenient and fast train travel all over the U.S.
While the Acela service given by Amtrak is available for New York city, a large part of the state is still to benefit from the plans being drawn for High Speed Rail use. At present, only the metropolitan area avails of consistent, on-time service.
With the upgrading of the Keystone Corridor in 2006, the express service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg is giving the fastest mean speed beyond the North East Corridor.
The Texas TGV Corporation was awarded a 50 – year franchise in 1991, but due to the controversies surrounding it, this was withdrawn in 1994. Since 2002, the Texas High Speed Rail & Transportation Corporation has been working towards setting up the infrastructure for a Trans-Texas corridor, and has been affiliated with various airlines to provide a complimentary passenger service between air and train travel.