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US lawmakers wowed by Japan bullet train

(AFP circulated the following on March 17, 2010.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — US lawmakers voiced awe Wednesday at taking a ride on Japan's sleek bullet trains, with one congressman saying he felt like he was in a videogame.

At a congressional hearing, Representative Don Manzullo said he took the ultra-fast train from the central city of Nagoya, where he visited Toyota Motor Corp. and other companies, to Tokyo.

"I got to sit right up in front," the Illinois Republican said of his trip two years ago.

"It was almost like a videogame," he added. "You have to try that sometime."

Eni Faleomavaega, who heads the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia, contrasted Japan's trains with the United States' own troubled network.

"The fact of the matter is Japan is about 100 years in advance as far as mass transit system compared with ours," said Faleomavaega, a Democrat who represents American Samoa.

"They were able to have trains that can go up to speeds of 125 miles (200 kilometers) an hour some 50 years ago. And what are we doing?"

But Representative Ed Royce, a Republican from car-loving southern California, sounded a cautious note, saying that public transport was "very rational" for Japan but not necessarily for the United States.

"Japan's population, its density, its geography, make it entirely different when discussing public transportation than with respect to the United States," Royce said.

"We look at economic merit when addressing infrastructure."

President Barack Obama in January unveiled eight billion dollars in economic stimulus money aimed at building high-speed rail networks in the United States.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

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