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Taking the train to the plane is the way to go in the future, say Argonne National Laboratory researchers who recommend replacing short-haul jets with a $30 billion nationwide high-speed rail network.

The cost of the 2,000-mile network of 300 mph magnetic levitation trains would be largely offset by reducing airline delays and energy, aircraft acquisition and airport construction costs, says a soon-to-be-released report.The report suggests that airlines run the system in place of jets that travel from hub airports to cities up to 600 miles away. The trains would allow airports to concentrate on handling longer flights, the report said.

"Every study before ours has looked at magnetic levitation as railroad technology," Larry R. Johnson, director of Argonne's Center for Transportation Research, said in today's Chicago Tribune. "Ours is the first to integrate it into airline and airport operations."

Magnetic levitation uses powerful magnets to lift a train above a guideway and propel it on a cushion of air.

The report proposes that the trains run on elevated tracks alongside interstate highways.

"The airlines at first viewed the concept as a threat," said William R. Nesbit, a retired United Airlines economist. "But if they follow the logic, the fuel and labor savings alone are big."