U.S. wants to study shinkansen technology

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) A senior official of the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration expressed hope Thursday that Japan will offer its technical expertise to the United States in building a high-speed railway network.

“I think Japan is one of several very good systems that we’re interested in looking at,” Karen Rae, FRA deputy chief, said in an interview. “We’re impressed with the breadth of technology and the accomplishments,” she said, referring to the shinkansen network.

President Barack Obama has highlighted a multibillion dollar effort to develop a high-speed U.S. railway system, saying such a network would save energy, create jobs and reduce dependence on automobiles and airplanes.

Rae said the FRA has had a long relationship with Japan, “especially our technical and safety people have worked extensively to share technology and research and learn from each other.”

While praising Japan’s railway technology, however, Rae also said Washington is in talks with other countries with high-speed railways, citing Spain and France.

She said the FRA is reaching out to “a number of countries that have success in high-speed rail” and that “Japan is one of many.”

In addition, Rae said each U.S. state, rather than the FRA, will advance the high-speed railway initiative, noting the FRA is trying to help gather information and apply “the best fit to each state.”

“Some will be like a Japanese system, perhaps. Some will be like many of the other wonderful systems,” she said.

“And one of the things we’re trying not to do is create a cookie cutter, where everything is exactly the same,” Rae said. “It really needs to be designed around the local and state needs.”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressed interest earlier this month to visit Japan later in the year and test ride a bullet train.