miller22
Posts: 595
Joined: Sun Nov 12, 2000 4:48 am

Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 8:49 am

I'm merely opening this up for discussion, and in fact have no opinion on the issue yet, but I'm intrigued at the possibilities of high speed trains. With train stations near the center of the cities, and the rediculousness of airport security, high speed trains show a specific threat to airlines. A bullet train from New York to Boston and Washington would devastate airlines along those route. Of course a major barrier to that becoming a reality is the immense capital and cost involved. So I ask a question which takes airline economics WAY outside the envelope. Why don't the airlines eliminate their immanent and perhaps defeating competition by becoming the competition themselves? If Delta put a high speed rail between LA and SFO they would destroy UAL on the west coast; same with UAL on the east coast. The airlines have the capital and it would seem to me the incentive to move into the next (current) century.

My thoughts on the topic evolved from studying why the railroads, once the powerhouses of the nation during th 1800's, fizzled away to nothing. The airlines of today directly resemble the railroads of yesterday and we all know history repeats itself, so why not become the company that replaces your own company now? Europe has proven high speed train economics work, so I ask in earnest...

Why won't this work?
 
MAH4546
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RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 8:56 am

Construction on Florida's "bullet train" starts in about six months. It will go from Tampa to Orlando to Miami, stopping in West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale in between. Miami-Orlando and Miami-Tampa are the two most traveled regional routes in the United States (based on flights flown by aircraft with 50 or less seats) and FOX (Florida Overland Express) will give it serious competition. However, I use the term bullet train very, very lightly, because even though it is being called a bullet train, top speed will reportedly be a measly 130MPH.
a.
 
jessman
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RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 9:08 am

The big problem with mass transit in general in the United States is the capital needed to lay the railways necessary for high-speed operations and buy the actual equipment. Once it is bought, the problem becomes making a profit.

One huge problem with this in the United States is the fact that so many people have a car, and it is affordable for a huge majority of the population to buy gas. People like cars because their car operates on their schedule and goes to their driveway. Our Interstate Highway system makes travel rapid enough for most people. They don't want their tax dollars going to a new rail system that by and large they will not use. Gasoline/petrol prices in Europe are often as much as quadruple those in the United States. Much of that price is taxes. Much of those taxes go to support mass transit. They also make it difficult for citizens to be able to afford their cars, so Europeans are much more apt to ride the train, so their trains are profitable.

This type of situation could occour in the USA, but not for some time.
 
patroni
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RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 9:13 am

Given the high infrastructure cost for a railroad system, I don't think that an airline can afford to run one on its own. Sure, there might be Virgin Trains in the UK, but they use the existing infrastructure and only pay a "utilization fee" to the railtrack company. Since there are no real highspeed tracks in the USA (with "real" I mean for speeds of 250-300km per hour), the whole infrastructure would need to be planned, built and paid in the first place.

However, what I could very well imagine, is that airlines do codeshares with train systems, e.g. on the New York-Washington route. If I recall right, the trains even stop at BWI airport?
In Europe, for example Lufthansa and KLM have done this. LH operates a dedicated waggon in the normal German rail Intercity Express train from Stuttgart to Frankfurt. Passengers check in at the railway station, get their boarding pass for the onward connection ex FRA and the bags are also already checked through. The traveling time by train is about 65 minutes. A flight takes maybe 25 minutes, plux taxiing, waiting before boarding, etc, so would not be faster.

So who knows, maybe we will see an Amtrak train with a Delta codeshare soon in New York Penn station??

Cheers,

Tom



 
desertjets
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RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 9:17 am

Airlines have an unfair advantage, they don't have to build airports.

However the US needs reliable high-speed rail in already identified coridoors. If as much effort that is put towards getting right-of-way for freeways and other highways was put towards rail, then things would be happening a lot faster. Both France and Germany got it right when they planned and developed the TGV and ICE systems.
Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
 
timz
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Joined: Fri Sep 17, 1999 7:43 am

RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 9:23 am

As you probably know people have talked about bullet trains from SF to LA for decades, but dunno if anyone has talked about making a buck by building one. Say it costs $25 billion (can't be too much less, can it?). If you sell bonds to raise that money you're paying what, at least a billion a year just for your capital? So I guess that means your operating profit needs to exceed a billion a year?

My guess is Delta knows it's not going to squeeze that out of the LA-SF passengers, unless gas goes to $20 a gallon. So, unless there's a few million people out there pining for a train to Fresno or Hanford, it doesn't look good.

 
MAH4546
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RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 9:23 am

Continental Airlines codeshares with AmTrak on some Northeast routes.
a.
 
jhooper
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RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 9:24 am

There was supposed to be a high speed rail between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio but I'm not sure what the status is on it now. I think it ticked Southwest off.
Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.
 
clipper471
Crew
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RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 10:47 am

Southwest must have seen this threat themselves when Texas passed a law to fund a DAL-HOU-SAT "Texas Triangle TGV" in the early 1990's. The high-speed train financing was thwarted, in part due to the lobbying of Southwest.
 
miller22
Posts: 595
Joined: Sun Nov 12, 2000 4:48 am

RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 11:31 am

The economics must be viable, especially with the rising cost of fuel and growing environmental views. Its only a matter of time, but why don't the airlines take a preemptive strike and own the railroads?
 
desertjets
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Joined: Fri Feb 18, 2000 3:12 pm

RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 12:13 pm

With few exceptions, passenger railroad in the US has never been profitable. That is why the major railroad companies finally got out of it in the late 1960's and why Amtrak was created. And in most countries passenger rail is largely a government run affair... I don't know how the recent privatization of rail in Britain is actually working though (but their rail infrastructure is even older and in sometimes worse shape than in the US).

Ultimately it comes down to rail being seen as a needed public good that only the government or a public-private co-op can provide on a large scale. Airlines would be the same if they had to build airports and run ATC.
Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
 
flyCMH
Posts: 2146
Joined: Fri Jul 09, 1999 12:15 pm

RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 12:22 pm

There was talk some time ago of a high speed rail line connecting Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Estimated ticket prices for a round-trip to Cincinnati from Columbus was $80 per person, which many people had no intention of paying, since the drive is only about 2 hours. So I believe that plan has fizzled out.
 
jonnyboy
Posts: 211
Joined: Mon Jul 17, 2000 1:19 am

RE: Airlines And High Speed Trains

Mon Sep 09, 2002 1:23 pm

While driving between New York and Washington this summer I had a thought similar to the topic discussed here. It is the perfect corridor for a high speed train. There are nearly 35m people in the combined metropolitan areas of NY, Philly and Baltimore-Washington. I also thought that if an HST was going to be built, they may as well make the technology leap and make it MAGLEV. http://www.transrapid.de has a lot of information. The first commercial MAGLEV will open between Shanghai and the new Shanghai airport next year. MAGLEV has the advantage of being faster and is able to deal with tighter turns and steeper gradients. Of course, it is more expensive. This is gonna cause an uproar but I think it may only be truly feasible if there was some concerted effort to cut back on flights in the NE corridor. Ban flights between Philly and New York, Baltimore and Washington, since these are very short sectors.

Anyway one piece of hard information I have on the subject is that part of Southwest's lobbying included a document that calculated that for the same cost as the Texas TGV, it could provide air transport for free to the current demand between the three cities!

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