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Plane Vs Train: Which Is More Energy Efficient?  
User currently offlineEWRSpotter From United States of America, joined Apr 2011, 0 posts, RR: 0
Posted (13 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 5140 times:

The European continent has a very well developed rail system which many on both sides of the Atlantic tout as a model for other countries. Many consider trains a far superior form of transportation vs air travel.

However, in this atmospehere of increasing energy prices, I've never seen an analysis comparing the energy efficiency of these two methods of travel. Our metric would need to be energy per passenger, possibly measured in joules/passenger. As an example, I'd be interested in finding out which is more efficient:

* JFK-LAX on a fully loaded 752 (no cargo)
* NYC-Chicago-LA on a fully loaded Amtrack train (no cargo)

Has anyone seen such an analysis? Does anyone have any credible figures to contribute?

-Marc.

41 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineCrewChief32 From Germany, joined Dec 2000, 418 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (13 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 5060 times:

Very interesting theme, indeed, but even a train that would run on water could probably not attract as many passengers as a plane, especially not on such routes like JFK-LAX or Chicago-L.A., because it simply takes too much time. Or is there a route anywhere in the US where a AMTRAK train could travel as fast as the French TGV or the German ICE?

Just my 0.02cents,
CC32


User currently offlineAa737 From United States of America, joined Oct 1999, 849 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (13 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 5049 times:

This would be a very interesting topic of someone could gather data on it. Whether or not one is more efficient then the other in terms of power, on long legs like JFK-LAX the train takes too long. If they could build a high speed bullet train it would help get passengers out of the air, but that will be hard to do. I would guess on local fligts, such as LAX-SFO if there was a very high speed train it could be better then a plane. If you can skip the hassle of check in at an airport and ATC delays it could end up being faster.

User currently offlineEIPremier From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 1549 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (13 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 5035 times:

Well, I think high-speed ground transportation is going to become a necessity in the US in the near future, and we might as well start the development process now.

E-commerce will help to reduce the amount of business travel to some extent, but leisure travel should continue to skyrocket. And, afterall, the population is growing too. We will still be in a situation where the demand at pace the system can't keep up with.

I agree that with current technology, high speed trains will only be practical on short routes, like Boston-New York-Washington DC (where there already is a viable alternative to air transport), and hopefully routes like LAX-LAS and LAX-SFO, perhaps DAL-HOU in the near future.

Certainly, electric or mag-lev trains can be more environmentally friendly, although that is not the same thing as energy efficient.


User currently offlineBostonBeau From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 463 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 5006 times:

I believe Amtrak actually carries slightly more passengers between NYP and WAS than the airlines do on the shuttles. I suspect that once the Acela service is fully running, that may happen on the BOS-NYP route too. I recall that a year or so ago, one of the "news magazine" shows (Dateline? 20/20?) did a comparison: they dispatched two reporters from headquarters in Manhattan...one via Amtrak...one via air...to see which would arrive at a given location in Washington first. As I recall, the two reporters arrived within a few minutes of each other.

User currently offlineIkarus From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 3524 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 4997 times:

Okay, just to give a German example (unfortunately not of the type you want):

Munich-Frankfurt on ICE:
trains leave every hour
up to 800 pax per train
faster than plane if taken city-centre to city-centre, slower if measured airport to airport

I'm quite sure if you measure just the energy of the journey, assuming a filled train, the train will come out on top. This neglects all the efforts of track building, and the fact that the trains will most likely be a lot less than 100% full.

For a plane you need two airports and fuel.
For a train you need two stations, 100s of miles of track and electricity lines and power plants.

I suppose as no real good-quality rail network exists in America, it is unlikely that one will ever be built. It's just too late.

Anyway, that's just my guess.

Regards

Ikarus


User currently offlineRayChuang From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 8005 posts, RR: 5
Reply 6, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4966 times:

If maglevs become economically viable, it could have a very dramatic effect on flying here in the USA.

With speeds up to 500 km/h (310 mph), maglevs could supercede air travel on segments up to 600 miles in length.

These corridors could really benefit from high-speed maglevs:

Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia

San Francisco, California to San Diego, California

Los Angeles, California to Las Vegas, Nevada

The Dallas/Fort Worth-Houston-San Antonio triangle in Texas

Chicago, Illinois to Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota via Milwaukee, Wisconson

Chicago, Illinois to Saint Louis, Missouri

Chicago, Illinois to Indianpolis, Indiana

Chicago, Illinois to Detroit, Michigan via Grand Rapid and Lansing in Michigan

Boston, Massachusetts-New York City, New York-Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-Baltimore, Maryland-Washington, DC, the Northeast Corridor

Alanta, Georgia to Miami, Florida via Savannah, Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida and Orlando, Florida.

Put in maglev lines on the corridors I've mentioned and you could eliminate many hundreds, if not thousands of flights from the USA.


User currently offlineCPDC10-30 From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2000, 4781 posts, RR: 23
Reply 7, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4962 times:

Trains are more efficient by a wide margin. Not as fun though  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

User currently offlineRen41 From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 1524 posts, RR: 1
Reply 8, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4959 times:

The fast amtrak train is called the Acela it goes from Boston-NYC-DC. It goes Boston-NYC in under 3 hours\

Ren41


User currently offlineCba From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 4531 posts, RR: 3
Reply 9, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4955 times:

About ten years ago in Texas, we were going to start electric high speed trains a lot like the TGV in France. There would be a network of high speed tracks connection most cities in Texas. However, the CEO of Southwest Airlines lobbied against it, and we never got it.

User currently offlineRayChuang From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 8005 posts, RR: 5
Reply 10, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4950 times:

Cba,

Psst--Texas is not a small state (only Alaska is bigger). Even at 170 mph high-speed rail system isn't really going to help given that it would take over two hours to travel from Dallas to Houston.

Now, with maglevs, that's a very different story. At 310 mph, Dallas-Houston can be done in around 60 minutes or less.


User currently offlineBA From United States of America, joined May 2000, 11153 posts, RR: 59
Reply 11, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4947 times:

Train travel in Europe is amazing. Last summer I went on the French TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Nice on the French Riviera. The first 3/4 of the route took only 3 hours. After 3/4 of the ride was completed, the train had to slow down because the tracks became pretty windy, as it hugged the coast line. Also, the train started stopping in a few cities on the Riviera, so the whole trip took 7 hours. It was an AMAZNIG ride though. The train was perfectly silent, you would not hear a thing, SILENT! Also, you wouldn't feel a TINY bump. The train wouldn't sway to the side either. You feel a few bumps when the train is changing tracks, other than that, its as if the train isn't even moving.

If you get a chance to go to France, I HIGHLY recommend you hop on a TGV.

Back to the subject:
There is not much hope for train travel in the U.S. anymore. Its just too late. People have gotten used to there own cars now. If America started earlier in increasing train travel, like Europe did. Trains would have been successful here as well.

Oh well, we'll leave Europe to handle the trains. Whenever we feel we need to go on a train, we can just go to Europe.  Big grin

Kind regards.



"Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need." - Khalil Gibran
User currently offlineRayChuang From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 8005 posts, RR: 5
Reply 12, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4943 times:

BA,

You're spoiled by the SNCF's superb TGV trains, perhaps the best high-speed train system in the world.

Nowadays, many TGV lines allow 300 km/h (186 mph) operation on many sections of rail--the fastest regular speed of any train, no contest. Not other steel-rail train comes close--not the German ICE's, and not the Japan Railways Shinkansen's.

By the way, you might want to know that SNCF is upgrading their line from Lyon to Marseille for faster operation, so it will cut over a hour off the Lyon-Marseille run.


User currently offlineBA From United States of America, joined May 2000, 11153 posts, RR: 59
Reply 13, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4939 times:

 Smile

There really upgrading Lyon-Marseille? Thats great. Yes, after Lyon, the train started slowing down quite a bit. I think we were hitting 50-60MPH max. While before we were going 186MPH.

Don't forget, the TGV is capable of reaching 324MPH. However, its not allowed to go that speed while carrying passengers.
 Sad



"Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need." - Khalil Gibran
User currently offlineCPDC10-30 From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2000, 4781 posts, RR: 23
Reply 14, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 4940 times:

I took the Thalys TGV last month from Paris-Amsterdam and return, and it was great! The first part of the trip up to Brussels is nothing short of amazing, it feels exactly like being in a airliner about to take off at about 300 km/h. Also what surprised me was how smooth the ride was. In Canada, we have supposed "high speed" trains that run between Toronto and Montreal at a speed of about 160 km/h. However, you can barely stand up because it is shaking from side to side so badly. The French sure know how to make trains!


User currently offlineNUair From Malaysia, joined Jun 2000, 1181 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 4917 times:

I have to say the TGV is very nice but does not go into Amsterdam central it changes over in Brussels (The Netherlands does not have the required tracks for high speed service. yet!!)

when you look at Aviation vs train travel I think the best example is the German ICE and LH. They are working to fully integrate train and plane travel with remote rail station check ins automatic baggage transfers and reserved seats. It saves the airlines money on shorter routes and makes life much more convienient for the average Joe living within 100km's of Frankfurt who doesn't want to park his car at the local airport for a few thousand dollars a week.

I think this would be a great example for the US rail system. And with the privatization of Amtrack why not sell seats to airlines to gain some more revenue and recognition. I have taken the Acela from Bos to NY and it was nice the article referred to before was from the Boston Globe where the two reporters ended up in Manhattan from Boston at close to the same time one taking the train and one took a USAir shuttle. But the line is still limited in Rhode Island and Conneticut by rail line restrictions on speed and shared track with cargo RR's. In the Midwest Tommy Thompson proposed high speed rail service from Chicago to Minneapolis via Milwaukee but it was never approved and since he lost the post to dept. of Trans. I doubt it will happen now. If Amtrack and/or other rail companies work together with the airlines I see no reason why a decent rail system that may even include high speed segments couldn't be done in the states. If done right it could even give some major airlines a cost advantage over no-frills carriers on short routes.

NUair

I ride Nederlandse Spoorwegen



"How Many Assholes we got on this ship?" - Lord Helmet
User currently offlineDatamanA340 From South Korea, joined Dec 2000, 547 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 4906 times:

Easy problem. Fuel-economical airplanes like 340 consumes fuel like Taurus-sized cars, when we think 'by seats'. And train is far more economical than any kind of land transportations.

By the way, nowadays high speed train services are quite amazing. TGV runs by 300kph on high speed lanes and SNCF is upgrading it to 350kph. TGV-derivatives like Thalys, Eurostar and KTX (Korea) have at least same performance. And ICE by 250kph and Shinkansen by up to 275kph. (Hikari-ko between Tokyo and Osaka usually runs by 210kph.) ICE looks a little slow  Smile, but this velocity is available even on most of general lanes, which accodomates Intercities and Regionals as well as ICE. These services eliminated air services like Tokyo-Narita or Paris-Bruxelles. You can find air fare in Tokyo-Osaka route is much cheaper than Shinkansen fare easily.


User currently offlineRayChuang From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 8005 posts, RR: 5
Reply 17, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 4900 times:

NUair,

Actually, I believe that some DB trains operating from FRA actually have a Lufthansa livery on the rail cars; these trains directly co-ordinate with LH flights from FRA.

It'll be interesting to see how SNCF is going to raise the speed of TGV to a maximum of 350 km/h. That is going to require a new wheel and suspension design for the railcars, that's to be sure.


User currently offlineNUair From Malaysia, joined Jun 2000, 1181 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 4892 times:

RayChuang,

I don't know if you have been around FRA lately but I just came back from a road trip from FRA to AMS and along most of the route in Germany it looked like they were hard at work on a brand new double track. I know that they hope to connect AMS and FRA with high speed rail in 2005 but that will of course depend on the developments in the Netherlands and the willingness of the dutch rail authority to bypass Centraal station in favor of Schiphol.

I love the ICE and the crew could not be friendlier. I knew LH used to direct a few trains but I wasn't sure if they still did this. Thanks for the additional info. I hope one day we can see full integration of rail and air services.

NUair



"How Many Assholes we got on this ship?" - Lord Helmet
User currently offlineKlik From Canada, joined Oct 2000, 152 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 4891 times:

A few quick notes:
The Thalys train (linking France, Netherlands, Belgium and the Nordrhein-Westfalia part of Germany and Switzerland) DOES serve Amsterdam Centraal Station from Paris Gare du Nord, though after Brussels it slows down considerably, due to there not being an exclusive track for the train, and due to all the stops (Antwerp and Rotterdam). The Dutch high speed network is under construction, and will see improvements on all major lines; there's an Internet site specifically with the plans, though I currently can't find it.

Also, just like LH's deal with DeutscheBahn, many airlines have agreements with SNCF through CDG's TGV station; for example, AF will cease (summer 2001) flying CDG-BRU due to the speed and convenience of the Thalys, and many airlines issue tickets including SNCF connections from CDG.

Cheers,
klik


User currently offlineNUair From Malaysia, joined Jun 2000, 1181 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 4886 times:

I didn't say the Thalys doesn't serve Amsterdam I said the TGV doesn't. You make the transfer in Brussels. I should also add that some of the main supporters of increased rail traffic are the airports themselves who would like nothing better then to replace low revenue regional jet operations with heavy large jubos that pay much more to land. Plus in airports suffering from expansion restrictions such as AMS, FAG, and LHR, its very beneficial to work with state owned rail companies (or Virgin rail in England) to increase capacity and transfer pax.

NUair



"How Many Assholes we got on this ship?" - Lord Helmet
User currently offlineEarly air From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 611 posts, RR: 1
Reply 21, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 4877 times:

The train uses less energy for sure when you go to per seat energy uses, however it will take you 4 days to so that trip, while on the plane it will take you just over 5 hours. Also, you do not get the thrill of flight on a train.

Rgds,
Early Air


User currently offlineFDXmech From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 3251 posts, RR: 34
Reply 22, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 4869 times:

I'm a big yet novice rail fan. But the probem I've read in rail magazines is that for the most part, passenger trains are not profitable (even in Europe so I've read).


You're only as good as your last departure.
User currently offlineCPDC10-30 From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2000, 4781 posts, RR: 23
Reply 23, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 4860 times:

Sorry, NUair is wrong. There is no transfer in Brussel to Amsterdam, the Thalys goes all the way to Amsterdam. Here is the proof, my BF is standing in front of the train in Centraal station:



 Smile/happy/getting dizzy



User currently offlineRafabozzolla From Brazil, joined Apr 2000, 1228 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 4858 times:

I've travelled from Paris Nord to Schiphol on the Thalys and you DO NOT have to transfer in Brussels. What happens is that half the cars and two of the four locomotives are disconected from the composition in Brussels to return to Paris.

25 Sydneysider : Hi RayChuang, maybe I can correct you a littlebit: 250kph was the speed of the ICEs of the first and second generation. At the moment the DB (German R
26 NUair : Nice picture of Centraal station!! Sorry you were right my bad!! I thought you were referring to the SNCF TGV and I wasn't even aware that Thalys oper
27 Post contains links EWRSpotter : Whooooooa.... This thread really went into a tangent. I'd like to refocus the discussion back to the original question with some new figures. There se
28 L-188 : I just wouldn't want to be the deer, car or small child that train hits at 100 clicks a minute.
29 Das Flugzeug : EWR Spotter, I think the big thing you're missing when looking at the mass/seat argument is that the 757-300 has to lift its seat up to 35k feet. Huge
30 Cba : Texas was looking at French TGV's if I'm not mistaken. With the proper tracks, the TGV runs at speeds from 200-300 mph. They can't really go over 200
31 DatamanA340 : There is no commercial train service that runs in 200mph. TGV is now only(?) 185mph, and expected to reach 200mph first. TGV track is widespread than
32 Western727 : Without looking at any data, my first guess would be that trains are more effecient, especially in the frieght business. I would favor air transportat
33 Timz : ...for trying valiantly to drag this thread back to the point. That Boeing graph sure doesn't increase their credibility-- comparing a 27-mpg-on-the-h
34 Jonnyboy : I have an irrelevant fact to throw in... The Paris-Lyon TGV route could carry twice as many passengers as the A6 (?) eight-lane highway which links th
35 Timz : SNCF considers that a 2+8 TGV (i.e. 8 passenger cars, 2 power cars) requires about 2 megawatts at the wheel rim to do 200 km/hr. (Yes, it can go faste
36 Lsjef : I've done lots of jumpseating related to my ATC job and have, a few times, calculated fuel consumption and done comparisons between autos and typical
37 Tan flyr : There is a very low friction rate between a steel rail and a wheel of the truck of the railcar.the actual contact surfact is just about the size of a
38 Red Panda : If sth. is light in weight, small in size, valuable and needed to be moved for a long distance, a/c is the most economic efficient. I would not say it
39 Lsjef : Tanflyr: can you quantify any of that? E.g., how much energy does that train consume to offset drag and friction at "cruise" speed, at what speed and
40 Jfidler : The U.S. is too big for train service to be viable in all except certain markets (the Northeast DC-Philly-NYC-Boston corridor being one). And as someo
41 Das Flugzeug : Check out this website (maybe someone can make it an active link). www.vr-transport.de/transrapid-energy/n003.html#hd4 Looks like rail is significantl
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