Operation of trains weighing 250-500 tons, traveling over steel rails at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour places stress, wear and serviceability demands on every aspect and component of high-speed rail systems. Under sufficient maintenance regimes, the state of railroad engineering systems to which high-speed rail has been developed should maintain high performance and reliability. The only significant threat to degrading of system performance may emerge from funding deficiencies that could reduce optimal maintenance regimes and practices.
Properly engineered and designed track systems should require routine and limited repair and maintenance. Inadequate railway design, which fails to withstand impacts of high-speed train operation, may lead to remedial or unscheduled maintenance or reconstruction of rail systems. The costs of such remedial repair of track systems could distort maintenance funding and regimes, and cause erosion or inadequate maintenance in other areas of the high-speed rail system.
Under optimal conditions high-speed rail equipment and systems should be expected to perform at the definitively high state of railroad design and engineering. Design and maintenance of safety equipment, including street, traffic and pedestrian crossing gates, guards and warning signals, are critical components of any high-speed rail system, requiring consistent diligence and attention. Facilities and measures implemented for mitigation of noise, turbulence and other impacts of high-speed train operations will necessarily require consistent maintenance.
It remains an accepted industry fact, that rail manufacturers achieve greater profits over the extended operational life of rail systems than are derived from the original sale of rail cars and systems equipment. This should lead planners and managers of high-speed, and all other passenger rail systems to realistically consider the long-term costs of system and equipment maintenance in projecting the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of high-speed rail system development and operation beyond the purchase of original rolling stock.