While the U.S. continues to rely on polluting diesel locomotives, Russia is quietly putting the finishing touches on its electric railroad network. This past week, Alstom and Transmashholding announced a $1 billion-plus plan to build 200 EP20 electric locomotives for the Russian market. Alstom also manufactures Amtrak’s Acela Express–the fastest train in the U.S.
The EP20 locomotive goes 200 km/h (124mph) and can operate in temperatures as low as -50°C. Little construction will be required to get the EP20 trains going on Russian rails–they will be outfitted to run on the voltage systems already in use on the Russian network.
Electric trains have long been popular in Russia. The country’s Elektrichkas–electric passenger trains–have been running since 1926 and make stops throughout both major cities and rural areas. The entire Trans-Siberian railroad (a 5,750-mile-long line) is also electrified. The project took 71 years to complete.
The U.S. could stand to pay attention to Russia’s railroad ambitions. Obama has an $8 billion vision for high-speed rail networks throughout the country, but the project could take decades if it is ever even completed. Surely Russia’s electric railroad, built in the face of a war, revolution, crumbling infrastructure, and economic crisis, can inspire us to move a little faster.