Earlier this summer we posted about how Air France-KLM (or whatever they’re called in these days of airline mergers) was considering getting into the high-speed rail business when the EU liberalizes international rail travel in 2010. That plan took a more solid form today when the airline publicly announced its intention to begin offering high-speed train service in partnership with environmental services company Veolia. The company has apparently been in talks with Alstom, developers of the TGV stock, about purchasing a more advanced version known as the AGV.
What’s interesting is that the sources I’ve read don’t seem to be talking about this as just a useful way to connect flights. Air France seems to want this to be a money maker. According to Deutsche Welle:
The diversification amounted to a “change in flight direction for Air France” which was responding to “the difficult position of airlines for journeys of less than three hours.”
This is great, but I can just imagine that misguided politicians here are going to start pointing to Europe saying “Look, rail can make money over there, why does it need public funding here?” What they fail to understand is that new operators such as Air France will be using tracks that were built with public money, tracks that are rented from a public company. Amtrak’s situation is very different from those of the European rail carriers, but many tend not to realize this when they cry “Privatize!” from the rooftops every year.