Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

And now, a fresh perspective

There is a site called that is running a number of excellent images based on the passage of a HSR proposition in California. They include some great comparisons between U. S. proposed corridors and the European situation.

Here is Exhibit One.


From Current TV:

The 800-mile network of trains would operate at upwards of 220mph and cost around $45 billion to construct, but it’ll create 320,000 permanent jobs by 2030 and reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuel by 12.7 million barrels of oil per year.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

Thanks to the History Channel

The Altoona MIrror carried a story of local, and national, interest. The History Channel has a new reality show dealing with trains and one of the episodes is on Acela.

A little bit of local train history has made it to TV.

Norfolk Southern’s Juniata Locomotive Shops and the Horseshoe Curve are part of the first episode of The History Channel’s new series “Extreme Trains.”

The episode airs at 10 p.m. Tuesday, but repeats at 11 p.m. Sunday, said Kathie Gordon, director of public affairs and communications of the History Channel.

The reality show, which includes eight episodes, goes behind-the scenes in a vital but little-known industry. The opening episode focuses on Norfolk Southern’s freight train carrying millions of tons of coal from the mines of western Pennsylvania over the mountains to electric plants.

According to the Web site, future shows will focus on the Amtrak’s 150 mph Acela, Ringling Bros. Circus Train and the Union Pacific’s refrigerated train traveling from Washington state to New York.

The show is hosted by Matt Bown, a conductor for Pan Am Railways and a native of central Maine.

It will air at 10 p.m. Tuesdays.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, United States High Speed Rail

Just a few inconvenient facts about Amtrak

Let;s not pick on Ben Cunningham. The columnist for the Tennessean must be a fine fellow, and he certainly makes a few salient points about the current federal trend to bail out everything in sight. We must, however, part company on Amtrak.

Here is the specific offending portion and a link to the entire essay.

The result: The U.S. auto industry will become just another bloated, politicized, semi-governmental blob producing a mediocre product that fewer and fewer people will choose — think Amtrak, Fannie Mae or the Postal Service. And Congress will have created yet another source of temptation for themselves. Expect many more future Duke Cunninghams and Ted Stevenses to go to jail over illegal bribes from auto-industry lobbyists.

Where to begin?

Duke Cunningham made his money on Defense Department contracts. Does Ben propose doing away with the Air Force?

Amtrak is, from the beginning, corporate welfare. It was designed as a mechanism to pay labor protection for the rail industry, which was all too willing to ditch the passenger trains they promised to run when they took all those taxpayer breaks to build them in the first place.

Amtrak pays loads of payroll and local taxes.

It is political, just like interstate highways and airports. Amtrak is part of the transportation system. It provides the sole intercity service for many rural communities. It is exactly what government should be doing.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

China stimulating economy with railroads

While we’re looking at diverting some of our massive bailout to save carmakers, China seems to be investing its economic package more wisely. From Business Week via The Overhead Wire:

China is now undertaking the world’s biggest railway expansion since the U.S. laid its transcontinental line in the 1860s. Beijing plans to spend $248 billion through 2020 on 75,000 miles of new track, for both freight and high-speed passenger lines. At that point, China’s high-speed passenger network will likely be the biggest on earth.

Despite these colossal ambitions, a nagging question remains: Can anyone make money from all this? Equipment suppliers, such as China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corp. and multinationals like Siemens, certainly can. But it’s hard to profit from running a railroad on the mainland. Analysts at UBS (UBS) estimate China’s Ministry of Railways, which operates the railroads, has a net profit margin of less than one percent on revenues of about $35 billion. The Ministry maintains majority control over all rail lines and sets freight rates for farm products and ticket prices for migrant workers at artificially low levels. It wouldn’t comment for this article.

Does China need to be making a profit from its rail lines? Most industrialized countries subsidize their rail systems, I’m not sure why we’re holding ours here in the United States to a different standard. Hopefully the PRC hasn’t drifted so far into capitalism that it doesn’t recognize a valuable public service when it sees one.

And did I mention that the country is getting serious about intraurban rail transit as well? To the tune of 3,000kms (1,800 miles) and 88 billion dollars?

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November 2008