Paging Thomas Friedman, paging Thomas Friedman.
So, if an epic near-miss at a nuclear reactor in Japan appears to doom the future of nuclear power, should a terrible high-speed train accident doom the future of high-speed trains? No. But it doesn't mean that high speed trains are not a fantastically bad idea, either.
With all the other horrible events of the weekend, China's high speed rail crash sort of faded into the background. But the toll is horrific: 43 dead, and hundreds more injured after one high speed train ran into another. Critics, such as Michael Sainsbury of The Australian, are now arguing that this is the result of cut corners in the construction process:
China's decision to build a $400 billion, 16,000 km high speed rail network in the space of a few years was initially greeted with awe at their commitment to winning the future, and laments from the usual suspects that America could never do something this fantabulous. Then the network was forced to slow the average speed of its bullet trains down due to safety concerns; lower-than-projected ridership caused big deficits; and the head of the rail ministry was removed in a tawdry corruption scandal.
That's good ol' one-party technocratic autocracy for ya? And that's China and their system that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is so enamored of.
In a sense, we should be glad that we can't do something that fantabulous here in this country as it's going to take that same sort of can-do, one-party technocratic autocracy to get anything built here in the States given enviromental regulations and required impact reports as well as the gazillions of eminent domain issues that will need to be resolved.
Maybe it's time to realize, with our system of governance, our infrastructure (a pretty damn good interstate system that we use extensively and plentiful commuter and cross-country flights) and the population dispersal of our country (what may work in the D.C.-Boston corridor is not going to work on the West Coast) that high-speed choo-choos just are not a good fit for us.
It's cool. Let's work on something else, like teleporters.
P.S. We continue to luxuriate in the irony of the regulatory and environmental regime erected by the statists which may be the largest hurdle for them to achieve their favorite form of transportation.