JwhannahYou can both ship transport containers and have quality high-speed rail for passengers. They're not mutually exclusive
Within the current infrastructure in America, they are mutually exclusive.
1. There are no passing lanes on long stretches of railway.
2. High speed rail cars wouldn't even be able to function on the current railroad tracks in America, because they use special tracks.
3. Therefore, a whole new rail infrastructure would need to be built to support high speed rail.
There are some conclusions that can be drawn from this.
The reason big-shipment railroading is so cheap is because it goes through the middle of nowhere, where land is cheap. High speed rail attempts to bring people to dense areas, where land can become 10x, 100x, or 1000x more expensive.
To build one mile of high speed rail in America costs about 87 million dollars. To build one high speed rail track from NYC to LA would cost over 243 billion dollars. That's an extreme example, but you can see how the cost balloons and why no entrepreneur has attempted to do this, especially since America is more "spread out" in general than other countries.
Yo, OK, why people downvoting this?
Speaking as a literal railroad signal engineer by trade, you could NOT make high speed rail happen on our existing rail network, for a number of different reasons.
The FRA classifies "high speed rail" as anything over 79 MPH, which is horrendously slow compared to Europe. But, in order to achieve speeds higher than that, it becomes quite cost prohibitive in the states. If you want to go more than 125 MPH, you have to be totally grade separated - which is something that doesn't exist in many places. If you have to build an exclusive alignment with gentle grades and curves to meet the criteria, it gets expensive fast. Not 87 million a mile (that's a ridiculous figure) but, still - quite expensive.
I think we could certainly do with a much better rail system, but the costs to make it happen are huge. All that said, our freight system is quite good... but yeah, you're not getting anything better than Amtrak out of that.