Leading article: On the rails

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The French, closely followed by the Germans and the Spanish, all know it already. But can there be any doubt that this is the age of the train? You had only to glimpse Barack Obama's arrival at Washington's Union Station to see that the train is the transport of the future, too.

Mr Obama's leisurely progress from Philadelphia to Washington was conceived as an act of homage, following in the steps – or should it be on the tracks? – of Abraham Lincoln. But what other form of transport could so minimise the risks for an about-to-be inaugurated President? Safe from the perils of road, sea and air – even the densest flock of birds presents no threat – why did the Department of Homeland Security allow George Bush to travel any other way?

The first family-to-be was insulated from the pesky public, and the caboose made the perfect pulpit. The United States has been even slower than Britain to modernise its rail network. The new President has shown the way.