New law demands that some Amtrak passengers be locked in boxes

Back in September, Tom wrote about an upcoming Senate vote which planned to allow passengers to carry guns on Amtrak trains. The whole idea meant that Amtrak would need to install gun safes on all their trains, or risk losing their multi-billion Dollar funding.

Well, the proposal reached President Obama on Wednesday, and he signed it into law.

Only, he actually signed for a law forcing Amtrak to lock passengers in a box if they carry guns on the train. That’s right – a simple error has now created a law that (at least on paper) may prove to be unenforceable.

When trying to determine who screwed up, nobody was really able to take the blame, and it may all come down to a simple printing error. Either way, the law is the law.

Thankfully for gun owners, it can be fixed, and Amtrak was given six months to implement the new gun rules, giving lawmakers plenty of time to fix the error before Amtrak needs to invest in people size safes.

Once the law is corrected, and Amtrak has gun safes installed on their trains, passengers will indeed be permitted to travel with their firearm – and the theory behind the entire scheme is that they may be able to prevent terror attacks. To me, it all sounds like a huge hassle – and sooner or later, someone is going to get off the train, and forget their gun. Just wait and see.

$50bn needed to keep train system from going off the rails

The Federal Transportation Administration believes that $50 billion is needed to repair major metropolitan train systems … and another $5.9 billion a year to maintain them. Railways that need the money, it continues, are in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Together, they carry more than 80 percent of the train passengers in the country – amounting to more than 3 billion passenger trips every year.

We rely on these trains every day, but we aren’t keeping them in top shape. More than a third of the trains in these seven locations have equipment near or past their useful lives. The money needed to remedy problems, however, isn’t coming in. Eight percent of the equipment on these lines is in “poor” condition, with another 27 percent “marginal.”

William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, makes the astute observation: “We don’t need another report – we need greater funding.”

Cheshire’s weird No Kissing sign shows up on eBay

Remember when we told you how there were signs that prohibit kissing in the Warrington Railway Station in the county of Cheshire, England?

We also mentioned that their “freaky” sign (right) “looks like Mark Trail kissing a grown-up Lisa Simpson.”

Want one?? ‘Cause now they’re on eBay.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Now you, too, can declare a No Kissing Zone in your own home. Maybe just casually leave the sign in your parents’ bedroom. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

The best news is that your purchase will benefit the British charity Comic Relief. The signs come with an official letter of release from Virgin Trains. Bid here!

Your guide to luxury rail travel

Trade a plane for a train, and experience genuine luxury. Hitting the rails in style has been gaining steam around the world, according to the Wall Street Journal, in Asia, Europe, Russia and Africa. In a sense, this is becoming the new “cruise,” without the worry of being pinned on a boat by that insurance salesman who’s intent on saving your financial life.

Many of the luxury train excursions seek to offer upscale accommodations with incredible cuisine and constantly changing scenery. Here a few ideas to get you started.

The Ghan (Platinum Service) connects Adelaide and Alice Springs in Australia and is named for the camel drivers that once used the same route (the rail service was extended to Darwin five years ago). In September, the upscale version of the trek was offered. You’ll have plenty of elbow room and privacy, but it will set you back close to $4,000 for three days. And, you have to get yourself to Australia to take the trip.

On the Thai Explorer, a route of the Eastern & Oriental Express, you can relax in a Presidential Suite or the lesser but still comfy State Compartments, or enjoy the open air section of the observation car at the end of the train. You’ll track through northern Thailand, with plenty of time to explore the stops along the way, but you’ll pay for the privilege. Four days for two guests in the state department costs $5,120.

If driving in India’s Karnataka state intimidates you (and it should), give the Golden Chariot a try. You can ride the train from Bangalore to the beaches of Goa. Launched early in 2008, this luxury rail alternative features massage rooms, gyms, comfortable beds and wireless internet access. Of all the alternatives reviewed by WSJ, this is the most cost-effective. Eight days costs approximately $4,000.

[Via Wall Street Journal]

China plans 236 mph rail link between Shanghai and Beijing

The Chinese rail Ministry has announced plans to link the nations capital with its financial capital. Beijing and Shanghai are a little over 650 miles apart, and the current rail link takes over 10 hours.

The Chinese claim to have mastered the technology required to build their own high speed trains, and plan to operate them on the new line at speeds up to 236mph (380 km/h) which should cut the current journey time in half.

Previous high speed rail projects in China include one of the first commercial Maglev links which operates between Shanghai and the airport. In 2005 a regular high speed link between Beijing and Tianjin was opened and is based on the highly successful German ICE rolling stock.

High speed rail links have changed the landscape in Europe, and dedicated high speed lines already link the UK with France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.

Being able to commute from city center to city center in under 5 hours will prove to be a very efficient solution in China, and will most certainly eat away at the airline market. The line is scheduled to be completed in 2012, a mere 4 years from now.