Dreams for high-speed rail here keep crawling along

If it’s running on time and there are no delays, it takes almost 8 hours by train to get from St. Paul to Chicago.

Remember that while you read this story on The Guardian today.

A train in Japan has set a new record for speed. The maglev train broke the record it set just last week when it reached 603 kilometers per hour, or about 375 miles per hour.

The maglev hovers 10cm above the tracks and is propelled by electrically charged magnets.

But fare-paying passengers face a long wait before they can experience the thrill of travelling at speeds that surpass even those managed by Japan’s vaunted shinkansen bullet train service, whose latest models whisk people between the main cities at speeds of up to 320 km/h.

There are concerns about the cost of building the infrastructure for a commercial maglev service, planned to go into operation by 2027, between Tokyo and Nagoya, 286km away. The service, which would run at a top speed of 500km/h, is expected to connect the two cities in 40 minutes, less than half the present journey time in a shinkansen, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

By 2045 maglev trains are expected to cover the 410km between Tokyo and Osaka in one hour and seven minutes, cutting the journey time in half.

That’s probably never going to happen in these parts, but when he visits the United States in a week or so, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will promote a high-speed rail link between New York and Washington. The Guardian says Japan might help finance such a project.

Currently, the closest thing the U.S. has to “high speed” rail is Amtrak’s Acela along the northeast corridor. It averages around 83 mph.

This afternoon, the Empire Builder’s westbound train zipped across North Dakota at about 70 mph. The eastbound train, which left St. Paul this morning, was crawling at a reported 1 mph as it approach Tomah.