HIGH SPEED promoters are active again in the United States. Ambitious plans for a 1600 km Gulf Coast Corridor were unveiled in New Orleans on November 18. The first phase would link Houston, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Pensacola, with a branch to Birmingham. Phase 2 would extend the line to Jacksonville and add branches to Shreveport and Jackson.
To be developed over a decade or more, the network would see existing rights of way upgraded from 127 km/h to 177 and later 240 km/h. No detailed cost estimate has been made, but a rough figure of $5bn is quoted. The promoters claim the plan has the enthusiastic backing of the Clinton administration and top officials of the Republican Party, but perhaps they should take note of developments in Florida, where the $6·3bn Florida Overland eXpress project may be in jeopardy following the election of Jeb Bush as governor in November.
The Miami - Tampa - Orlando routes will be part-funded by $2bn in federal loans and $2bn from Florida in $70m annual instalments. The FOX consortium expects the first TGV derivatives to run in 2005, and carry 8 million passengers in 2010, but the line will not move into profit until 2018. The first annual appropriation is to be considered by Florida in March, but Bush believes the private sector should carry more risk. He is understood to favour upgrading existing routes for tilting trains.