The Null Device


Iceland may join the EU by 2011. The once fiercely independent Iceland had in the past rejected the idea of surrendering its independence, though with its economy bankrupt, it may have no choice; meanwhile, the EU's senior diplomats, as well as the Czech and Swedish governments (who hold the current and next EU presidencies) are in favour of Iceland joining, and preparing to accelerate its accession. Of course, not everyone's keen on this; Iceland's fishing industry, for example, doesn't look forward to sharing its national waters with fleets from across the EU.

There is also talk of Iceland adopting the euro, and abandoning its distinctive krona coins (which, instead of heads of state, historical figures or monuments, have fish on them), though this will take longer because of constraints on membership of the euro.

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Good news for rail travel in the US: the Obama administration is planning to invest in passenger rail projects. Of that, $850m will go towards Amtrak, the US's somewhat neglected vestigial passenger rail system, and two billion will be spent on "high-speed rail", including a network of rail links across the Midwest.

Most of the article has an interview with former Massachusetts governor and Presidential candidate and public transport advocate Michael Dukakis, who seems to be an unofficial spokesman for passenger rail development in America. It emerges that "high speed", though, could mean the 1970s British Rail definition, i.e., up to 125mph, not the TGV/shinkansen definition regarded as "high speed" elsewhere. The fact that he talks about upgrading America's railways to "the level of technology they're using in England" says a lot about how far there is to go. I wonder whether they'll do what the New South Wales transport authority did and actually start making InterCity 125s under license.

It's good to see money being earmarked for upgrading America's railways, though over the long distances that span the continental states, would a 125mph train really be able to compete with flying? If anything, the distance is all the more reason to invest in faster railways.

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