Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Train in Spain Stays Mainly on My Brain*

Earlier today, I caught a an interesting report on NPR about the very serious commitment the Spanish have made to their high-speed rail system … called AVE. Billions of dollars have been spent over a relatively short period of time, and there are now high-speed rail links connecting many Spanish cities. And more in the works.

Spaniards are flocking by the hundreds of thousands to their rail system. And why not, for heaven’s sake? The trains are modern, quiet, fast and reliable. And there’s no way you can fly between most of those cities, going from city-center to city-center, in less time than the train takes … not with getting to and from the airports and going through security.

Then there’s the comfort factor. The train offers wide comfortable seats and, whenever the mood strikes, you can get up and walk to the dining car or the lounge car for a meal or a cold drink.

Consider, too, the environmental benefits. So many people are now opting to travel between major Spanish cities by train, there has been a significant reduction in the number of domestic flights. That cuts pollution, reduces fuel consumption and saves money. And there is less congestion in the air, too. The AVE trains, of course, are non-polluting because they’re powered by electricity.

The most recent route added to the AVE system is the 400-mile link between Madrid and Barcelona. Travel time, at an average speed of 156 miles an hour: Two hours and 35 minutes!

And guess what … it’s just about 400 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

* Sorry ‘bout that.

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