Saturday, April 2, 2011

High-Speed Rail, Italian Style

Just cruising and Googling the web, and Mama Mia!, here's an article about Italian high-speed rail from 2008.  How could I have missed it?

Remember 2008, when Proposition 1A was passed by so many well-informed California voters who were promised a $33 billion high-speed train that would carry 117 million annual passengers from SF to LA for $55???

Ferrari (you know who they are) ($250,000.+), and Tod's, who make expensive driving shoes in Italy ($500.+), have joined forces to create a high-speed rail service.  This is a story of the very rich helping other very rich get around fast when they're not wearing their Tod's driving shoes in their Ferraris. 

The photo tells the story.  This is not your everyday go to work commuter train.  But, it does capture the entire imagery and spirit of high-speed rail, the exclusive province of the luxury class.  There you are, at Diridon Station, in front of the gleaming, low-slung blue and yellow locomotive, sitting on your Louis Vuitton luggage. Life is good when you ride on high-speed rail. 

Like other prestige brands,such as Versace, Gucci or Prada, high-speed rail is a fashion statement.  

What it is not is a transportation solution for the rest of us, although that may be how it is being touted.  That is, when it isn't being sold to the unwitting as a solution for unemployment and failing economies. Discussions about high-speed rail belong on the Society page, not in the Business Section.

You need to keep this in mind when you hear the CHSRA promoting the train that they promise will make everyone happy in California.

There's an eyebrow-raising sentence in the article, "At speeds of about 225 miles an hour, the new trains can be promoted as responsible alternatives to supercars." What do they mean by "responsible alternatives to supercars?"  Are supercars, presumably like Ferrari, irresponsible? Of course not. What they mean is "expensive." These new trains are expensive alternatives to expensive supercars.

Do you believe that the US  government should be spending billions of dollars on these trains?  If you do, you must be a very rich person. 

November 18, 2008, 2:34 PM
Ferrari President Jumps Aboard Italy’s New High-Speed Train

Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori boasts that the travel time on its trains is competitive with that of airlines.
(Don't you love the lighting?)

Luca di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari, is diversifying. He has invested in a new Italian fast-rail company, along with Diego della Valle, president of Tod’s, creator of the famous Italian driving shoe.

The new company, Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, or N.T.V., plans to offer high-speed rail travel from Italian cities beginning in 2011, a service it sees as an alternative to airlines (notably the languishing Alitalia). Recent rail line improvements have made it possible for trains to rival airlines in the time it takes to get from Rome to Milan, the Economist reports.

N.T.V. plans to use a new type of train from Alstom of France, which also built the French T.G.V. The new train is called the A.G.V., for Automotrice à Grande Vitesse, which means “high-speed self-propelled carriage.” Its engines are more efficient than those of the T.G.V. and are built into the cars, eliminating the separate locomotive and passenger arrangements.

At speeds of about 225 miles an hour, the new trains can be promoted as responsible alternatives to supercars. And given Ferrari’s co-branding arrangements with Acer computers and Puma shoes and clothing, perhaps N.T.V. will consider painting the trains red and sticking prancing-horse decals on them.

Hey, it might be worth trying with Amtrak’s Acela trains, too.