Republicans have said since they took control of the House of Representatives last year that they would eliminate inter-city rail funding, which they regard as too costly. Transportation secretary Mr Ray LaHood said last month that federal funding for such projects was still in demand, and there have been more than 500 funding applications since the programme was launched in 2009.

The 2012 spending bill includes $US 500m for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (Tiger) programme, and inter-city projects will be allowed to compete for a share of these funds.

There was more positive news five days after the vote, when the Federal Railroad Administration concluded a $US 928m funding agreement with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which will support the initial Central Valley section of the state's proposed high-speed network (IRJ December 2011 p6). This project has received $US 3.9bn in federal funds so far and Californian voters have authorised a further $US 9bn in bonds, although a recent survey suggested two-thirds of people in the state would vote to repeal this measure if it was subject to another ballot.