On 8 February, 2010, the first International Practicum on Implementing High-Speed Rail in the United States, jointly hosted by UIC (International Union of Railways) and APTA (American Public Transportation Association) was held in Washington, at the time when the city was hit by historic heavy snowfall.
To begin the practicum, three representatives, Mr. Yoshio Ishida, UIC Chairman, Mr. William Millar, APTA President, and Ms. Karen J Rae, Deputy Administrator, FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) made opening speeches.
Mr. Ishida, UIC Chairman, first praised Amtrak’s best efforts to operate ‘Acela’, the only high-speed train service in the U.S., in the accumulated snow, and also paid respects to the efforts of urban public transportation operators such as WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) to take various measures against snow damage. He then made the point that a key factor leading to high-speed railway project success was the existence of safe, clean, and reliable public transport networks and emphasized the importance of the role that public transport could play in high-speed railway projects. Furthermore, he pointed out the significant contributions the railways could make in the reduction of CO2 emissions in the transport sector and energy saving of the society as a whole. As for the expenditure of the $8 billion President Barack Obama announced at the beginning of this month, he stated that it marked a significant step from a qualitative standpoint, although the volume itself might not be sufficient, and this $8 billion would be the foundation for the development of the future railways of the United States. He expressed his strong expectation that collaboration between UIC and APTA would be developed in the various fields.
Prior to Mr. Ishida’s speech, Mr. Millar, APTA President, explained that APTA has been actively involved in the U.S. high-speed projects and highly valued the possible role that UIC, as the global platform for railway technology, could play in the success of the U.S. high speed projects. He stated that high-speed railways would not become available overnight, as is also the case with highway networks and airline systems, and would require several decades to be developed. Then he expressed that $8 billion is a significant down payment. He expressed his appreciation toward the cooperation of UIC on the International Practicum this time, and asked for UIC’s continued support.
In this context, Ms. Rae, FRA Deputy Administrator stated that the ＄8 billion was part of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act and as such it was expected to enhance economic development in communities across the country and establish new industry in the U.S. by providing faster and more energy-efficient transportation. She held the collaboration between UIC and APTA in high esteem.
The five modules of the International Practicum then started with a presentation by Mr. Ignacio Barron de Angoiti, Director of the Passenger Department at UIC. Railway technical experts dispatched from UIC members in Japan, France, Germany, and Spain participated as speakers, and this practicum is to be held in two other cities – Chicago and Los Angeles – after being held in Washington.