Japanese PM offers free high speed train system between DC and Baltimore

Japan has offered a free high speed train system between DC and Baltimore as a part of a sales pitch, but will President Obama accept the offer? Photo: A prototype maglev train runs on a test track in Japan (AP)

WASHINGTON, November 21, 2013 — Earlier this week, the Prime Minister of Japan offered to construct a high speed train system between Washington DC and Baltimore, entirely free of charge. The offer is part of a larger sales deal that Japan is attempting to negotiate, wherein the United States would pay for the remainder of the construction, and connect the system to New York.

The trains travel at an astonishing 315 miles per hour, and shrink the DC to New York trip to one hour. The fastest train system currently in use, Amtrak’s Acela, takes three hours and is often more expensive than an airplane ticket. With the new system, the trip from Washington DC to BWI airport would take approximately 15 minutes.

The MARC trains take approximately 40 minutes to complete the same journey, as long as there are no delays. However, during the last month, MARC reports that only 84% of their trains on the Penn Line have been on time. Some trains on the line have only a 69% rate of accuracy in arriving on time, belying complaints from riders who believe the system is inefficient.

The train is set to enter service into Japan, where it will become the fastest train in the world, surpassing China’s maglev system, which functions at a top speed of 268 miles per hour.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the offer this week during a visit to President Obama. Details of the offer were not made public, but it is believed that Japan offered additional incentives to entice participation. Japan is seeking the deal in the hopes that adoption by the United States will attract other customers. To date, Japan has not effectively been able to market the technology.

The trains attain their high speed by using magnets to levitate the train in the air, earning the title of “mag-lev” trains. Behind the project is The Northeast Maglev (TNEM), who has already raise $50 million for the project. Based in Washington DC, TNEM boasts of bipartisan high level support for the project.

“The Board, led by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, includes three former governors of Northeast Corridor states — Republicans George Pataki of New York and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey and Democrat Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania — and two former U.S. secretaries of transportation, Democrat Rodney Slater and Republican Mary Peters, as well as Kevin Plank, founder of Baltimore-based Under Armour, and former Northwest Airlines President & CEO Douglas Steenland.”

Prime Minister Abe, in a statement delivered at the New York Stock Exchange, had much to say about the proposal.

“Making use of this technology would connect New York and Washington, D.C. in less than an hour. It would free people from the congested roads that frazzle their nerves while saving not only 443,000 gallons of gasoline but also 682,000 hours of time that are now wasted annually. Compared to airplanes and automobiles, it would save time while cutting carbon dioxide emissions. It is truly a dream technology.

“In Japan, preparations are already well underway even now towards opening the Tokyo to Nagoya section. But before that, let’s first connect Baltimore and Washington, D.C. I have already presented President Obama with a proposal to do exactly that.”

It is unclear if President Obama will accept the offer. 


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Rahat Husain

Rahat Husain has been working as a columnist since 2013 when he joined the Communities. With an interest in America and Islam, Rahat is a prolific writer on contemporary and international issues.


In addition to writing for the Communities, Rahat Husain is an Attorney based in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. He is the Director of Legal and Policy Affairs at UMAA Advocacy. For the past six years, Mr. Husain has worked with Congressmen, Senators, federal agencies, think tanks, NGOs, policy institutes, and academic experts to advocate on behalf of Shia Muslim issues, both political and humanitarian. UMAA hosts one of the largest gatherings of Shia Ithna Asheri Muslims in North America at its annual convention.


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