Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Quad Cities quest

There is a letter to the editor running on the Moline newspaper web site about a basic transportation need from a member of the Quad Cites Passenger Rail Coalition. It is about a funding request for the Illinois legislature to restore service.

A number of comments have already been made by area residents and businessmen and women regarding the benefits of the return of this service, the complications of today’s air travel being among them. This is not to take away from the fine service provided by our Quad City International Airport. If you’re not in a great hurry however, I feel rail service could be a pleasant and even rewarding alternative.

I would hope if you feel as I, that you consider joining the Rail Coalition, write to your legislators, or do anything you can to bring this project to fruition. It will be of great benefit to the Quad Cities metro area.


Carl W. Becker,

Quad Cities Passenger Rail Coalition

A fast conventional run to Chicago (as compared to the 200 mph European model) would still allow for a full day in Chicago, with a convenient return. The economic impact of this convenience and efficiency would be substantial. Putting aside the asthetic virtues of rail transportation, this one should be a no-brainer.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics

Norway is heard from

Well, it had to happen, After all, Norwegians are sensible people.

Calls for high-speed trains to reduce air traffic

Politicians and economists are calling for faster, more and cheaper trains across Norway and into Sweden.

High-speed trains like this one in France are being urged for Norway as well.


Related stories:

High-speed inter-city trains departing every hour. Train travel times halved. Cheaper tickets. These are some of alleged benefits of a new railway network all over southern Norway, proposed by a retired economist this week.

Reducing carbon emission by reducing air traffic in the area by 80 per cent is the main goal of the proposal, economist Didrik Seip told newspaper Aftenposten. He’s delivered a proposal about high-speed train travel to the state agency in charge of Norway’s railroad infrastructure, Jernbaneverket.

And conservatives are generally in favor of it, as they should be. Good transportation is good for business and the economy.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

The European rail barrons

Here is a perspective on the high speed rail boom across the pond from a Canadian publication. It deals with the German rail company, Deutsche Bahn (DB), which is about to go through a partial privatization. Fear not. It’s no fiendish plot to destroy ground transport at the behest of all-powerful airline and highway interests. It is the natural outcome of good management, and adequate capitalization.

The rail scene is even hotter in Europe, where Deutsche Bahn (DB), the German national rail company, is on the verge of partial privatization. The German government wants to sell about 25 per cent of DB some time next year by way of initial public offering or direct placement to investors. The government says the 25 per cent stake is worth at about ?3-billion, the equivalent of $4.3-billion (Canadian).
DB is a huge transport company. In 2006, it had revenue of ?30-billion and an operating profit of ?2.5-billion. It owns and operates 34,000 kilometres of track and almost 4,200 rail stations. It has 80 subsidiaries and sea, trucking and air freight operations around the world. Freight accounts for half of its sales. It has 229,000 employees and last year carried 1.85-billion passengers.
Why does DB want to join the stock market? Partly, it appears, because it can. For years, DB was a chronic money loser. Under CEO Hartmut Mehdorn, it has become profitable and is turning into a powerful international business. Another reason is rail liberalization. In 2010, the European rail market will be opened to competition. DB needs access to capital to fight this war. It wants to spread its high-speed trains, known as ICE, all over Europe before SNCF, the French national railway company, gets a chance to do the same. Both DB and SNCF know they are vulnerable to cheap competitors. Rail versions of discount airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet could emerge.

It is a burning commentary on how far behind modern technology North American has fallen.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

Colorado breakup

Here’s one I found on the daily research trek through the cyber-wilderness. It’s about the efforts to bring high speed rail to Colorado. A similar effort was soundly defeated some years ago, but circumstances have substantially changed. High speed train technology is booming worldwide.

As often is the case, this seems to be an issue of personalities. The long-time most visible proponent of improved transportation seems to have gotten himself some scrutiny because of wearing two hats.

Bob Briggs, the man whose spent the past few years raising support and money for a statewide, high-speed, passenger rail system along the I-25 and I-70 corridors, was fired earlier this month from the group he started.

In 2005, the nonprofit Briggs created to promote rail, now called the Colorado Rail Association, secured $1.25 million from Referendum C funds to conduct a feasibility study for rail in the mountain corridors. In order to receive the money, CDOT required that an intergovernmental agreement be created, and so the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority – a government entity with a membership of about twenty counties and municipalities – was founded to receive the funds and lead the study. Briggs acted as the group’s director from its inception, and in June was formally made executive director by the board. But then on July 6, the board voted to terminate his contract.

If it is to be credible, the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority will have to produce a professional feasibility report. Otherwise, the project is dead and the public is stuck in an eternal gridlock.

I don’t know Bob Biggs, so this is s sheer total guess, but I would imagine that he knows a lot about trains and has a lot of sound opinions. He is probably better suited to lobbying and public education. He coulc become a tremendous asset or a vocal antagonist.

The rest of us out in congested America are hoping for an amicable divorce.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics

Showdown in Stuttgart

EUX TV, the Europe channel, brings the story about a local dispute over some serious urban renewal. At issue is a decision to rebuild the local train station to accomadate even faster times for the French LGV. There is an interesting logictical situation in colorful old Stuttgart, which is somewhat more typical in the United States.

Stuttgart, one of Germany’s most prosperous cities and a main stop on the rail line between Paris and Vienna, has always been an oddity because it has a dead-end station.

The locomotives enter the station, stop at the buffers and are uncoupled. Another engine must be hitched at the other end to haul a passenger train on the next leg of the journey, or special two-headed trains must be used.

Unkink this line, planners say, and it will be possible to cross Germany east-west, from Munich to the French city of Strasbourg, in 2 hours and 53 minutes, a reduction by 54 minutes compared to present- day express trains.

France’s high-speed TGV train, which began services to Stuttgart in May, will be able to sweep through and keep going as far as Hungary.

Another interesting aspect of the Stuttgart situation is that the old rail right of way was laid out in 1850 and at some point, trains reportedly come to a near crawl at around 5 mph.This will require boring through mountains and building new bridges. It’s expensive and the question is whether it siphons off funding for other high speed rail projects. It looks like, even in Europe, there are fiscal limitations.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

The Ohio Hub

Ohio really gets it.

The final draft report of the Ohio Hub Study was released this past week, and is available for download.

Good transportation policy certainly goes deeper than a great web site, but it helps to present sensible concepts about ground transportation in a professional maner. This internet site is a beauty.

These people have it together, proposing a conventional regional network of “fast” passenger trains. This made is distinct from the European “high speed” model, which run on dedicated tracks at 200 mph. These American trains will operate at an authorized speed of 110 mph. The concept calls for improvements to the existing rail infrastructure increasing capacity so that passenger and freight operate harmoniously.

The travel corridors are:

Cleveland-Buffalo-Niagara Falls-Toronto
Columbus –Pittsburgh
Columbus-Lima-Ft. Wayne-Chicago

The system involves the construction and operation of 1,244 miles of intercity/interstate passenger rail service with 46 stations. It would serve 22 million people, and that point is absolutely critical. There is an existing vibrant market for improved transportation choices. They have something going for them that folks in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas don’t – 12 major metropolitan areas and a bunch of smaller cities and towns.

The planners have their heads on straight about station location, placing some adjacent to airports. The equipment would consist of 33 new train sets costing $18 million each. That is $594 million in rolling stock. More about costs in a moment.

An interesting aspect of this study is the differentiation between 79 mph service and trains at 110 mph. The faster schedules increase passenger loads by 50%, but double revenue, since business travelers will pay more for the efficiency. Over nine million people will use this network.

All of this is part of a regional grid which, in concept, extends to the east coast and west to Minneapolis. It’s synergistic.

The total cost for Ohio is around $5 billion.

Maybe this is not completely fair, but just for argument’s sake, let’s put that sum up against the $200 million -dollar per day cost of the war in Iraq. The Ohio project would be paid for in 25 days at this rate.

One reason the comparison doesn’t work is that, when Ohio endorses this sensible project, it will gain some benefits. How would it be to have construction jobs, and great transportation company providing quality service and good jobs? There is also an increase in urgently needed freight hauling capacity.

There is so much more to say, but you should take some time and download the reports from The Ohio Hub website. It’s very professional.

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail

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July 2007