When I was a TV journalist, I did a story for ABC network on America’s “new, fast trains.” Many years later, two weeks ago, I realized how incomplete my story was.
My story was on the Acela Express that U.S. launched back in those days. And my story was on that, given ABC TV slash their owner Disney slash American corporations slash my employers would love to show their consumers how great the accomplishment was.
Like, [drum roll] “One more feather on this mighty American cap: we have a very fast train launched, that can travel at a marvelous speed of…[drum roll]...150 miles an hour!” [cheers and claps]
And everybody in America would cheer and clap.
Problem is, that speed is laughably low.
Two weeks ago, we had a chance of a lifetime to travel Italy and France. In France, we did not have a chance to ride the fast trains. But definitely, even the commuter trains were much faster, greener, and cleaner compared to what we see here in the U.S. At least, what we see here in New York, where we live, and curse the subway system everyday. America’s commuter trains are slow, unclean, and almost always not on time.
Even my poor Calcutta’s subway trains and platforms are spic ‘n span, compared to the rat-infested, smelly New York Metro. Believe me, I’m not unnecessarily putting New York down. I truly love this city. I said it many times, if I can’t live in Calcutta, I would live in NYC.
And it’s not the fault of the hundreds of thousands of NYC workers who work very hard to maintain the trains and their schedules. A rampant, out-of-control privatized, pro-car, pro-oil system has defunded public transportation, driving it to doom. Add to it American’s strange psyche of car ownership, with zero regard for the environment.
But in Italy, we had a chance to ride the Italo trains — to travel between Rome and Naples, and back. The average speed was 300 kilometers an hour, which is 186 mph. We were awed. But that’s really an average speed for Europe’s trains, as shown in the picture above. Italo’s record speed is 575 km an hour, which is 357 mph!
Wow! We had no idea.
Japan, for your information, has a Maglev train that can reach up to 603 km/hour. But we never visited Japan, so we can’t tell you how it would feel to ride. Nausea, dizzy, nightmare?
On that Italo train with an “average” 300 kmph speed, however, we didn’t even realize it was going so fast. Everything seemed normal. And normal, average Italians were calm and cool: even that English-zero woman who asked me to get her luggage down to the platform (and profusely thanked me in Italian) never blinked when another train with an equally stormy speed stormed past us, and zoom-crossed almost in split seconds.
American powers and their corporations and media have all the money for making wars and bombs and drones and mines and Agent Orange around the world. They have all the money to bail out big banks that broke us down to bankrupt. But they have no money to upgrade their public transportation.
As I mentioned in my ABC TV story so many years ago — obliquely — that America’s train tracks are prehistoric. They are not capable of carrying trains like Italo or Maglev. Even Long Island Railroad or New York’s Metro North trains, with their miserably low speed, are crashing every now and then. Given that situation, I am thankful to God U.S. doesn’t have high-speed trains at all.
American powers and corporations and politicians and media are also thankful. They are thankful that the American people don’t have a clue how far behind this country is, compared with the rest of the developed, capitalist world.
The world turns faster today. Here in America, the speed is slow. Very slow.
Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York