Trains For America

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Bombardier eyeing massive rail contract in China

CanWest News is following the transportation boom in China with an extensive update on the newest HSR project.

The 1,318-kilometre train service between Beijing and Shanghai has been under discussion for more than a decade, but only this week did the government confirm it has approved the project.

No date was given for work to begin, but several months ago Railway Minister Liu Zhijun said he hoped it could start before the end of this year.

It now takes up to 12 hours to travel by train between China’s financial hub and the capital. At speeds of up to 350 km/h, the new train will cut travel time to less than five hours.

Industry experts estimate the trip will cost about between $80 and $93, roughly half the price of airfare.

French, German and Japanese companies are eyeing the link as closely as Bombardier, and all are apparently waiting to see exactly how big a project has been approved.

“This will be a big project,” Zhang said, “but China has not announced yet how many trains would be ordered. It depends on their operation plan which has not been issued. It should be several hundred trains.”

The Shanghai-Beijing link will likely be the largest rail project undertaken here in the next few years, but certainly not the only one. China is in the midst of a railway-building boom. Recognizing that the lack of rail infrastructure could soon become a drag on the red-hot manufacturing sector, China is expected to lay 17,000 km of new track by 2010.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

CNN spots overnight sleeper in Europe

It’s another one of those totally off-the-wall fantasies that would never work in the hard-nosed efficient American transportation model Believe it or not, business travelers board a train in the evening, go to sleep in an area called a berth, and wake up for a full day of wheeling and dealing in the morning. Even more outrageous, they often have breakfast on the train.

Of course, that would never work here.

CNN did an outstanding report on rail transport in Europe and it was not all HSR.

Our journey this month starts on Platform 3 of Paris-Austerlitz station as we board the Elipsos Trenhotel to Barcelona. This is the European business traveller’s best kept secret. The overnight journey down is by far the most comfortable way of getting to a 9am meeting in Barcelona. We compare the alternatives both for time and cost and conclude there’s simply nothing to beat the sleeper.

One maxim of the modern railway is “4 hours or less” and we put this to the test on our next two European rail journeys. Zurich to Stuttgart and Stuttgart to Paris are both the sort of important routes that attract regular business traffic both by train and plane.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

Airlines don’t get no lovin’

Here is a little item from the Financial Times concerning public dissatisfaction with airlines. Plenty of meat in this one. All any intelligent person could ever ask is a balanced and sensible transportation system.

You know you’re unloved when people prefer the taxman. In the latest University of Michigan customer satisfaction index, America’s airlines scored worse than the Internal Revenue Service. This past summer has been the worst in years for delays and baggage mishaps on domestic flights. Not coincidentally, average load factors are running above 80 per cent – even higher than during the late 1990s. America’s ageing air traffic system cannot cope. With little slack in the system, all it takes is a storm over New York, through which a third of US air traffic passes, to cause disruption across the network.

Higher ticket prices could reduce demand to manageable levels. But, in a deregulated market, who jumps first? Even as traditional airlines cut domestic capacity, low-cost carriers add to theirs. The commoditisation of air travel is a boon for many. But, if you price and schedule aircraft more like buses, it is little wonder they become as reliable as buses.

Ultimately, the air traffic system must be upgraded. A more integrated transportation policy might also look at investment in other options (high-speed rail?) to mitigate air travel demand growth. However, all of this is years away. The upshot is that the airlines face more regulatory risk in the near term. Government-imposed caps on landing slots, higher landing fees and restrictions on smaller aircraft are all potential measures.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

A guide to Eurostar and St Pancras

For the world travelers, here is a link to the complete Eurostar FAQ.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

Chattanooga maglev update

This idea is certainly getting a lot of talk. Some of it quite foolish. Let’s tune in to this report from WDEF.

Mullis on Mag Lev Train Possibility

Bethany Mowry's picture

Georgia state legislators continue to pursue a high speed rail connection between the Chattanooga and Atlanta airports.
State Senator Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga serves as chair of the transportation committee.
The panel wrapped up study meetings on the viability of a magnetic levitation train last month.
Mullis says the next step is to take that information to Washington.
Mullis: “I feel very optimistic that in the future this could be a reality, and again, it doesn’t have to be through tax payers, it can be through the private sector too and we’re going to find a way to make it happen.”
Mullis says he believes the train could carry freight, eliminating the need for taxpayer dollars for the project.

Now, doesn’t that make perfect sense. Put freight cars on it so taxpayers won’t have to pay. That’s how highways work, right?

This is how things work down south. Many old time hard-heads are mighty suspicious about big government, except when it comes to Social Security checks and Air Force bases. I think we might just want to won up to the strong possibility that it costs money to build transport systems and only government has the ability to legally acquire the land.

I know treating regular folks liek grownups is a bizarre and dangerous concept, but we might have to give it a try if America will ever move into the 21st. Century.

Filed under: Uncategorized, United States High Speed Rail

Whose ox is squealing now?

The Air Transport Association of Canada wasted no time springing to its’ own defense with a desperate and shrill declaration of self-interest. Here is the whole thing.

Canadians Travelling by Air Deserve Fair Treatment!

    OTTAWA, Oct. 11 /CNW Telbec/ - The Government of Canada today announced
$691 million in new funding to VIA rail. This simply the latest in a long line
of bottomless subsidies to Canada's ailing passenger rail company. On average,
every VIA passenger is subsidized by taxpayers by approximately $45 per trip.
    "Today's announcement is an insult to the hard-working Canadians who fly
for work, to visit family or take a hard-earned vacation", said ATAC President
and CEO, Sam Barone. "We support the need to ensure viable transportation
infrastructure, we simply can't understand why air passengers are getting
ripped off while rail passengers are getting the royal treatment", he
continued.
    Fuel taxes, security charges and, most significantly, airport rent are
draining half-a-billion dollars out of the air transportation sector each year
- on top of all the other taxes that all companies operating in Canada must
pay. This year, The CD Howe Institute, The Montreal Economic Institute and
Economist Dr. Fred Lazar all issued studies that stressed the heavy tax burden
on air passengers in Canada compared to other industries and other modes of
transportation.
    Mr. Barone also pointed out the important role of air transportation in
Canada's economic, and cultural life.
    "Its air transportation that gets the business person from Toronto to
Vancouver or the pipeline worker from St. John's to Fort McMurray and the
grandparents from Victoria to Toronto to see their grandkids", said Barone.
    "Canadians want high-quality, low-cost, air service, so why is our
government doing everything it can to undermine that goal", he asked?

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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