JEB BUSH, son of former US President George, took office as governor in Florida on January 5. One of his first actions was to dash the plans to build a 515 km high-speed line linking Miami, Orlando and Tampa. Saying ’we have to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money’, Bush announced on January 13 that he would withdraw state spending on the project and veto any efforts to rescue it. The $6·3bn proposal envisaged Miami - Orlando opening in 2005, and Orlando - Tampa a year later. Civil engineering would have started in 2000, with contracts for mechanical and electrical equipment to be let in 2002 including a fleet of 18 TGV sets able to run at 320 km/h.
The Florida Overland eXpress consortium of consultants Fluor Daniel, North American TGV licensee Bombardier, Alstom of France and civils contractor Odebrecht was chosen as preferred bidder for a 40-year franchise three years ago. Last year the federal government approved legislation awarding financial support of up to a third of the project cost, some of which could have been available as early as next September.
The 20 high speed trains being built by Bombardier and Alstom for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor were in the news a few days earlier, when the Washington Post published a story claiming the trains were ’four inches too wide’. The report suggested the trains would foul the loading gauge if allowed to tilt at the design maximum of 6·5°, and that the tilt angle would be limited to 4·2° to prevent passing trains from touching, which would lead to journey time promises not being kept. A joint statement by Amtrak President George Warrington and Peter Stangl, President of Bombardier Transportation’s US subsidiary, responded that the Post article ’does not accurately reflect the present situation. Bombardier is completely compliant with all performance specifications, including trip times.’
The statement also said that ’the width of the cars currently being manufactured by Bombardier is similar to the width of Amtrak’s existing fleet and is necessary to meet certain interior requirements outlined in the Amtrak specification.’ Bombardier said that the proposed schedules could be met with the 4·2° tilt limit. The brouhaha may have been one reason why a January 21 publicity launch was called off. According to Warrington, the trains are still due to enter service in October.