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Why Does Air Travel Do So Much Than Rail?  
User currently offlineGlom From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2005, 2815 posts, RR: 10
Posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 4685 times:

And saying no fuel tax is not a good enough reason. Over the last couple of years, fuel prices have increased by integer factors, far more than any fuel tax would do, and it doesn't receive direct subsidies like rail and the industry has still continued growing at a fast rate. Clearly had fuel been made a bit more expensive through a fuel tax, it wouldn't not have eroded its profitability by much.

Following privitisation of British Airways, then airline did so well it even made Concorde profitable. Following privitisation of British Rail, things got screwy.

So why air travel that much better?

15 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineBri2k1 From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 988 posts, RR: 4
Reply 1, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 4663 times:

"Why Does Air Travel Do So Much Than Rail?"

Why does it do so much what?

"So why air travel that much better?"

Why what? Why is it that much better?

Air travel is more popular than rail travel probably because it's much faster, if that's what you're trying to ask. Also, a direct flight can exist between any two towns with airports, but a direct rail line between your source and destination cities is much less likely. This seems far too obvious, though, so I'm probably still misinterpreting your question.



Position and hold
User currently offlineOzarkD9S From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 5010 posts, RR: 21
Reply 2, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 4658 times:

Quoting Bri2k1 (Reply 1):


This seems far too obvious, though, so I'm probably still misinterpreting your question.

You aren't the only one!



Next Up: STL-LGA-RIC-ATL-STL
User currently offlineKC135TopBoom From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 12128 posts, RR: 51
Reply 3, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 4658 times:

I cannot speak for other countries, as I don't really know how popular railroad service is in most of the world.

But, in the US, airline service is often cheap, since we have so many LCCs (WN, TZ, JB, F9, etc.). Additionally it is usually faster, if you go on a trip of 200 miles (322km) or more. The national rail passenger service, in the US is AmTrack, and it has a checkered safety record. AmTrack is not as widely available as airline service. In some larger cities (Boston, New York, etc.), subways and rail commuter service is popular. But long distance rail service is not as widely available.


User currently offlineMainMAN From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2005, 2097 posts, RR: 5
Reply 4, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 4610 times:

Quoting Glom (Thread starter):
So why air travel that much better?

If I've interpreted the question right (!), and assuming you're also from the UK, far more people here get around by car and rail than by flying.

Travelling domestically by air in the UK has become increasingly popular as the railways have become increasingly disorganised and ineffective, and also as the roads have become intolerably congested. I find rail travel really expensive, so I often fly.

If you think about some of the newer and busier routes available, like MAN-SOU or NCL-BRS, it can take anything from 4 to 8 hours in a car, 4 on a train and it's generally a complete pain in the arse to travel anywhere overland.


User currently offlineDeltaGuy767 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 660 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 4569 times:

I can only speak from a US perspective, but the only national rail that is successful in the US is the "Northeast Corridor" which is located in the NE part of the US containing the cities of Boston,New York,Philidelphia,and Washington DC. The line is electrified allowing for faster trains to travel on it. Amtrak otherwise known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation(Gov't subsidised) owns the line and operates a "high speed" service known as Acela. Although not much faster than 135mph, it is a premier business train which has shown susses because of the proximity of the cities making air travel less effective. Also commuter railroads in such cities as Chicago, Boston, Philly, Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles have proven to be successful as well. In Europe, a lot of countries/major cities are in close proximity to each other allowing for air-travel to be less effective due to the wait times (check in/security/delays/baggage claim/etc.) whereas with high speed rail, it is much more effective for short to medium range trips.

Best Regards from BDL and BAF,  wave 
DeltaGuy767



A Good Landing is one you walk away from!
User currently offlineBri2k1 From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 988 posts, RR: 4
Reply 6, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 4560 times:

Passenger rail lines in the US are at something of a disadvantage though, in my mind. The tracks are owned by the freight lines, and the passenger lines are often delayed to make room for freight trains. Here in Colorado, I can fly from DEN to GJT where my parents live in 45 minutes, drive in 4 hours, or take a train for 14 hours, assuming it doesn't get delayed (which it usually does). Hell, the Greyhound bus fare is about half the train fare, and even it gets there in less than half the time. Actually, the train is the only way I've never tried to get there from here. I think it's pretty obvious why.

That being said, the rail lines that are not shared with freight are much more popular. Light rail ridership here in Denver has eploded, and soon they'll be building a line to the airport. Commuter rail as in Southern California is also popular, but no matter where you go in the US, you still find plenty of people who love their cars.



Position and hold
User currently offlineEXAAUADL From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 4560 times:

In many countries rail is subsidized by governements, air isnt at least as directly

User currently offlineCRJ900 From Norway, joined Jun 2004, 2173 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 4544 times:
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Could the "Eurostar" train concept (18 railcars with 770 seats travelling at 186 mph on dedicated tracks) work between NYC and Chicago?

I like riding on the Eurostar, it's a very hassle-free way to get to London...



Come, fly the prevailing winds with me
User currently offlineMainMAN From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2005, 2097 posts, RR: 5
Reply 9, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 22 hours ago) and read 4514 times:

Quoting CRJ900 (Reply 8):
Could the "Eurostar" train concept (18 railcars with 770 seats travelling at 186 mph on dedicated tracks) work between NYC and Chicago?

Definitely. It might not work so much between New York and Chicago which is approx 720 miles as the crow flies, as between New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Indianapolis and then Chicago.


User currently offlineVV701 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 7401 posts, RR: 17
Reply 10, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 4440 times:

Quoting Glom (Thread starter):
So why air travel that much better?

Is it?

There are approximately 1.6 billion air journeys a year. Forty per cent of these journeys are made in US registered aircraft.

But 2.2 trillion train journeys are completed every year. Fifty per cent of all of these journeys are made in Chinese, Indian and Japanese trains. In each of these three countries over one hundred times as many train journeys are completed every year than the number or air journeys that are completed worldwide. Indeed the Indian railway system is the world's biggest employer.

Looks to me as if the railways have it by a huge margin.


User currently offlineHKGKaiTak From Australia, joined Jun 2005, 1050 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 4361 times:

Let's not forget Easyjet and Ryanair has already killed the Eurostar empire. Eurostar was slated to be far bigger than the LON-BRU/PAR operation it has become. It was supposed to start from EDI, MAN etc through to as far as Germany and down through to the south of France.

They even went as far as testing Eurostar stock thru Edinburgh about 10 years ago, but the economics never stacked up next to fares offered by LCC's. IIRC they were also supposed to build newer faster tracks as well on the back of the Eurostar project as well.

Quoting CRJ900 (Reply 8):
Could the "Eurostar" train concept (18 railcars with 770 seats travelling at 186 mph on dedicated tracks) work between NYC and Chicago?



Quoting MainMAN (Reply 9):
Definitely. It might not work so much between New York and Chicago which is approx 720 miles as the crow flies, as between New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Indianapolis and then Chicago.

Great idea, but would never happen whilst the US Government is cutting back on Amtrak funding year after year. Look at the squandered potential the Acela Express had on the north-east corridor.



4 Engines 4 LongHaul
User currently offlineDeltaGuy767 From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 660 posts, RR: 2
Reply 12, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 4248 times:

Quoting HKGKaiTak (Reply 11):
Great idea, but would never happen whilst the US Government is cutting back on Amtrak funding year after year. Look at the squandered potential the Acela Express had on the north-east corridor.

It's not congress's fault. The Acela could gain so much time if it weren't for the State of Connecticut. Connecticut has some of the oldest catenary (most from 1920) and the oldest rails(1930's). Also, the space between tracks in CT is so small that the Acela can't use the tilting restricting it to about 60mph for over 70 miles. Comparatively, the 135mile WAS-PHL leg takes 1hour and 20 minutes giving an average speed of over 100 mph compared to the less than 50 mph for the CT/NY stretch. If CT pumped some money into their commuter system, they would get a great ROI and be investing towards unclogging I-95. A Eurostar/Gov't funded Pax hi-speed railway in the US from NYC-CHI would be attractive as the Capitol Limited (WAS-CHI) takes near 14-20 hours making it less savvy for average joe travelers.

Cheers from BDL and BAF,  wave 
DeltaGuy767



A Good Landing is one you walk away from!
User currently offlineHKGKaiTak From Australia, joined Jun 2005, 1050 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 14 hours ago) and read 4151 times:

Quoting DeltaGuy767 (Reply 12):
It's not congress's fault. The Acela could gain so much time if it weren't for the State of Connecticut. Connecticut has some of the oldest catenary (most from 1920) and the oldest rails(1930's). Also, the space between tracks in CT is so small that the Acela can't use the tilting restricting it to about 60mph for over 70 miles.

That's precisely my point. If the government (at the Federal level) is really serious about a good Amtrak network and in particular a good North East Corridor service, they would've funded a new high speed line already.

Remember in Europe the high-speed sections are all specially built and are exclusive to high speed trains only, and the old (or the "Classic") tracks for the local trains.



4 Engines 4 LongHaul
User currently offlineBlueFlyer From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 3941 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 12 hours ago) and read 4091 times:
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Quoting EXAAUADL (Reply 7):
In many countries rail is subsidized by governements, air isnt at least as directly

Many countries see rail transport as a public service that is efficient and affordable (UK not included).
Air transport benefits from indirect subsidies in the US, which is one of the reasons why it is so popular compared to the rail alternative. If carriers had to bear the full cost of air traffic control and airports didn't have parking revenues, it would be a more even playing field and air travel would be more expensive than it is.

This being said, I don't believe that the playing field will ever come close to being even and accurate comparisons will never be possible because no one will fly from Fort Lauderdale to Miami and no one will ride the train from Los Angeles to London. Acela will subsidize long haul train services to better compete with the plane than if it didn't exist, and long haul flights will subsidize short haul flights otherwise they would be more expensive and there would be a bigger push for a rail network.

Quoting HKGKaiTak (Reply 13):
Remember in Europe the high-speed sections are all specially built and are exclusive to high speed trains only, and the old (or the "Classic") tracks for the local trains.

Time/schedule permitting, local trains can use high-speed tracks as well, however high-speed train will have priority in case of delays.

[Edited 2006-08-14 10:37:16]


I've got $h*t to do
User currently offlineElmoTheHobo From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 1536 posts, RR: 1
Reply 15, posted (7 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 4021 times:

I could tell you that a New York-Chicago rail line a la Eurostar could work, but it won't. Entirely new railroad lines would have to be built. I saw a figure in an old Trains magazine (mid-late 1990s) saying that it costs about $1 Million to lay one mile of single track on even ground. Now double or quadruple that, multiply it by 800 (because it won't be a straight line) ,add catenary, the Applachain mountains, cities, tunnels bridges, new rail terminals, new train cars, overhead, loan payments, cost overuns (yes, they WILL happen), and your project will cost you at least 3-4 Billion dollars - and that's just to build it.

I say build an independent line because, as stated before, Amtrak shares its tracks with the freight lines which own them. Amtrak owns very little track - mostly the Northeastern corridor - and even parts of that are owned by regional operators, like the New York-New Haven section, which is owned by Metro North.

No one in their right mind will finance it! Now once its built, and the train can establish a reliable 6-7 hour trip, I can see people using it. You avoid the hassle of the airport, twice, you go from city center to city center (which is really a moot point seeing as we have insane urban sprawl that just doesn't exist in Europe), and you have quite a bit more comfort.

Sounds good, it won't happen though.

Rail isn't always doing worse. Switzerland, has an efficient partially privatized railway system that is ALWAYS on time and delivers a consistent product, whether you're going from Aigle to Bex or from Geneva to Zürich. In my opinion, it all has to do with management. The UK's horrible mismangement of its railway system is nothing more than management ineptitude. A state the size of the UK should have an efficient rail system that effectively competes with the airlines. I think that it is only a matter of time before the major rail operates in the UK merge or start cooperating a bit more and create an efficient network that rivals the airlines.

As for the United States, it is only a matter of time before Amtrak shrinks to the point that it becomes a NorthEast corridor with a line or two to Chicago and Florida.


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