Rail advocates argue that high-speed rail makes the most sense in 300- to 600-mile corridors, so some think that the United States is too big for it to work. Conversely, English columnist Simon Jenkins argues that Britain is too small for high-speed rail to make sense: what the country needs, he says, is more reliable trains, not faster ones. “In rail terms, England is one huge metropolis in which the chief constraint on time is not technology but the number of stops.”
Jenkins writes with authority (and a bit of sour grapes), as he was on the board of British Rail in the 1980s before it was privatized and also on the board of London Transport. He thinks the “pseudo-privatization” of rail services has made it less reliable and more bureaucratic than ever (against which it has to be pointed out that Britain is the only European country where public transit is gaining market share).
But his arguments against high-speed rail are right on: it is a “gargantuan project” that “will cost a lifetime of money” and mainly “serve a few rich travelers.” Nor is it “particularly green.” Instead of investing billions in building brand new tracks, the money should be spent on making the existing tracks work better.