US officials are to pilot high-speed trains on the Amtrak line as a forerunner to introducing them in the US.
Trains that connect Chicago and St. Louis will be tested at speeds of up to 110mph. The speed is a 30mph increase compared to the current top speed. While some sections of the population feel that the trains would herald significant economic and social changes in the region, some analysts are sceptical that the project would be profitable. They even doubt that the opening of a faster train service would provide serious competition to air and automobile travel, or that it would ever reach speeds comparable to the bullet trains that service customers in Europe and some parts of Asia.
The launching of the trains is very important for the current administration, and US Transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, and Illinois governor, Pat Quinn, will be on board when an Amtrak train hits 110mph for the first time in Illinois.
Those who support the move believe that the trains would offer residents a chance to forego other modes of transport that are often more costly. When the plans were announced in 2009, the US president said that a mature high-speed rail network would also reduce demand for foreign oil and eliminate more than six billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year.
However sceptics are of the view that the train might not attract enough travellers, thereby wasting the funds spent on it. Also, US presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, and his Republican party, are calling for an end to $1.5bn in federal subsidies to money losing, Amtrak. In order to seriously compete with the one-hour plane journey, the trains have to cut travel time by three hours.