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LA to Vegas in 2 Hours: The Future of American Rail Travel

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Brightline West, an electric high-speed railway line connecting Las Vegas and Los Angeles, broke ground in Nevada on April 22, 2024. The Biden administration provided $3 billion in funding to Brightline West in December 2023. This was part of the previously allocated $6 billion and came from the transitory Infrastructure Law as part of the Federal-State Partnership Program of the Biden administration. The remaining $3 billion is slated for use in the public high-speed railway project connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco, which is currently under construction for over 100 miles.

Brightline West, a privately owned 218-mile electric high-speed railway, includes flagship stations in Las Vegas and additional stations in Apple Inc. Valley, Hesperia, and Rancho Cucamonga. The train, traveling over 186 miles per hour, will journey from Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga, located 37 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, in just 2 hours and 10 minutes. This is twice as fast as the travel time by car.

Florida-based Brightline Holdings plans to model the Las Vegas-LA railway route, the only privately owned and operated intercity passenger railway in the U.S., connecting Miami and Orlando.

Brightline West estimates that removing 3 million cars from the I-15 highway yearly will reduce carbon emissions by over 400,000 tons annually. It also expects to create 35,000 jobs.

The high-speed railway aims to open in 2028.

The U.S., which owned 360,000 km of railways in 1900, lost its status as a public transportation method due to corruption and the diversion of government subsidies to automobile manufacturers. Considering the country’s land area and environmental concerns, high-speed railway construction is necessary but has not been implemented.

For reference, the high-speed railway began with Japan’s Shinkansen in 1964. The one that caught the eye was China, with electrification reaching 72% of its total railway length of 155,000 km. Among major countries, India has the highest electrification rate at 85%, followed by Japan at 80% and Europe at 60%. Although small in scale, all railways in Switzerland are electrified.

High-speed trains traveling over 300 km per hour operate in Germany, France, South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, Italy, China, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. China boasts a high-speed railway network extending over 26,000 miles. Many other countries, including Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, are also pushing to introduce high-speed trains. The world is rapidly moving towards electrification, even if not at high speed.

However, electrification in the U.S., where high-speed trains seem more necessary, is only 1%, and there are still no high-speed trains. More than 700 companies own the U.S. railway network. This includes 4 million coal and 70,000 oil transport vehicles, which is twice what is needed.

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