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The May 16 Kyodo article “U.S. wants to study Shinkansen technology” was another perfect example of the bread-and- circus pledges being fed to the American public by the new administration in Washington. This time officials are waving the image of bright new, high-speed rail lines spanning the continent. And to bring this about, they want to study Japan’s Shinkansen technology. This, of course, is nothing more than pure political grandstanding for two very good reasons.

First, the “technology” in question has been available for at least a half a century, and 10 different U.S. administrations before the present one have had a chance to “study” it in detail.

The second, and most important, reason is the sad fact that the rail beds in America are mainly ancient, many dating back to the 19th century, and are incapable of bearing the type of high-speed trains now used in such nations as Japan, Germany and France.

Karen Rae of the Federal Railroad Administration let slip the utter hypocrisy of the whole grandiose scheme by saying that the federal government only wants to help gather information that can be used by each state to develop such systems. The fact is that high-speed rail lines must operate on road beds designed and built for such trains, and this can only be done on a transcontinental basis, not state by state.

If such a plan were ever to get on track under the auspices of the federally operated Conrail and Amtrak systems now in use in America, rather than any number of private railroad companies, it would mean billions, if not trillions, of U.S. taxpayer dollars being spent on construction.

john e. marquardt

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