Hi, Dave – yeah, this is your ass calling. Good, I’m doing good; how was your summer? Anyway, I was wondering if you could take your head out of me. Seriously, it’s getting uncomfortable. What? You’re doing research? Well, like, how long you gonna be, do you think?
Maybe you don’t remember – God knows there’s enough amazing foolishness in the world to distract you – but a little while ago we did a bit of a rip job on one of Dave Essel’s translations at La Russophobe. Remember his mocking, sarcastic piece on Russia’s high-speed train? He had a great time yukking it up about how it wasn’t really very fast, it was ridiculously expensive, the company that makes it (Siemens of Germany) is corrupt, it’s unsafe, the Russian people hate it and throw stones at it, and on and on and on.
We pointed out (by we, I mean you and I, not that “team blog” stuff) that the train was expensive because it was designed to compete with domestic air routes (as high-speed trains have already done with great success in Europe), that it had in fact achieved very respectable speeds in tests and that some of its commercial route still takes it over unmodified track, which is what slowed it down. We demonstrated that Amtrak had caused many more deaths than SAPSAN – although, to be fair, Amtrak has been operating for a great deal longer. Finally, we speculated that Siemens was stoked about its Russian high-speed rail project because it was hoping to get a contract to replace America’s critically panned, creaky Amtrak.
And now, it has.
This is the very same train as SAPSAN, the Siemens Velaro. It will start in Florida and, if as successful as the company confidence suggests, likely replace the USA’s entire passenger train network. It’s expected to achieve speeds of 200 mph (Wow, Dave!!) , although it has already achieved operating speeds of 217 mph. In Russia, where it’s already in service. In fact, just about the time the Velaro (although it’ll probably be called the Freedom Something or the Liberty Rocket, or maybe the George W. Bush Bullet) makes its first passenger run in America, the Russian ones should be rotating in for their first maintenance overhaul.
Dave did have one good point – the Russian contract is just a contract; Russia pays money, Germany delivers trains. The American Velaros will be mostly built in America, and provide jobs for Americans. Russia could have struck a better deal there – but their purchase so far is relatively small. However, they appear to have learned their lesson, and some of the construction of the 54 commuter trains planned for Sochi 2014 will likely go to Russia. Also, the USA has an advantage in that there is a Siemens USA and not a Siemens Russia, at least not a division that builds trains. Not yet.
The way I see it, everybody wins. Siemens wins, because the eventual American order (contingent on success in Florida) is likely to be huge. Germany wins, because Siemens is a German company, and all that money helps Germany tighten its grip on worldwide high-speed rail technology. America wins, because the project should generate a lot of badly-needed jobs, and the resulting rail network should be an orders-of-magnitude improvement over the current one. Russia wins, because it gets to show America the way, simultaneously showing the world what a fool Dave Essel is.
Well, okay. Not everybody wins. Everybody except Dave Essel.