Imagine this

The construction of a high-speed rail network in the US – together with the private sector investment that would be a necessary component – has not thus far panned out in the way that optimists would have hoped.

In the pages of Infrastructure Investor earlier this year, US transport specialist Kenneth Orski described ‘progress’ thus: “A well -intentioned but quixotic presidential vision, to make high-speed rail service available to 80 percent of Americans in 25 years, is being buffeted by a string of reversals”.

Scepticism – or it that healthy pragmatism? – now appears to be a feature of official pronouncements on high-speed rail. Hence, in unveiling the appointment of KPMG to oversee a plan exploring opportunities for public-private partnerships in the development of a high-speed rail network in the north-east, Amtrak vice president Al Engel said the study would look at “what’s real and what’s imaginary”.

Amtrak, the state rail company, has in mind a 686-km, $117 billion network linking Washington DC, New York and Boston with 220mph trains. Private capital providers may have the word “imaginary” annoyingly echoing in their minds as they ponder this tantalising prospect.