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Will the FRA Force Amtrak to Build Pricier High-Speed Trains?

On the Network today, Systemic Failure highlights what is apparently an ongoing dispute between Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration -- one that could affect the development of next-gen Acela trains.

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Systemic Failure says Amtrak was hamstrung by federal requirements into building a custom design for the first Acela, which led to higher costs. From Amtrak:

The assumption that the standards simplify the design process of the equipment and would save $2,000,000 per train set is false. The Acela example indicates the exact opposite to be true. The FRA rules, as existing and proposed, eliminate the possibility of purchasing off-the-shelf equipment. The engineering work required to design new compliant equipment alone would far outstrip any possible savings from the rules if there were any to be had.

A recent FRA rule goes to some length to dispute Amtrak's claim, and indicates that the FRA does not intend to ease its regulations. "This is mind boggling," writes Systemic Failure. "Despite HSR being a top priority of the president, the FRA is still creating roadblocks."

The FRA's apparent hard line notwithstaning, the blog notes that the buck stops with FRA chief Joe Szabo, who seems amenable to using compatible "off-the-shelf" product for the next Acela and California high-speed rail.

Also on the Network today: Streets.MN weighs the pros and cons of subsidizing public transport; Bike Delaware notes the efficacy of bike projects as job creators; and the Political Environment laments the current state of affairs in Wisconsin, the state that originated Earth Day.

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