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 seems to be a common belief, articulated above by CPDC10-30, that trains are far more efficient in moving people. There is also a certain romantic attachment to trains that often clouds rational thought. Let's shatter some myths.
To be fair, we will compare technologies of the same generation (unveiled in the last 5 years). One metric we will look at carefully is weight per passenger:
Acela:
Configuration: 1 power car + 6 cars + 1 power car, 304 seats (260 Business, 44 First)
Weight / Seat: 1,900 kg/seat
Power / Seat: 30.3 kW/seat (are the units here really kW/h/seat??)
Source:
http://www.trainweb.org/tgvpages/acela.html
TGV Duplex:
[included for reference]
Configuration: 1 power car + 8 trailers + 1 power car, 545 seats
Weight / Seat: 700 kg/seat
Power / Seat: 16.2 kW/seat
Source: http:
Boing 757-300
Configuration: 240 passengers, 12 premium 228 economy.
MTOW: ~120,000kg (note this is a MAX figure that would incl cargo - differences between engine vendors are negligable for this discussion)
Computed Weight / Seat: ~500 kg/seat
Power / Seat: ????
Source:
http://www.airliners.net/info/stats.main?id=102
2001 Honda Accord
Configuration: 1 Captain, 1 FO, 2 passengers
Weight: ~1,400 kg
Weight / Seat: 700 kg/seat
Source:
http://www.Honda.com
Now, to begin the Acela doesn't look very efficient compared to the TGV... and it looks pathetic compared to the 753. But the data are still incomplete. Can anyone contribute more figures? For a Boston-Washington run, can anyone figure out the power/seat ratio?
The argument will be made that the power requied to get the 753 from FL 0 to FL350 would negate the weight/seat benefits. I would submit to you that drag is the greatest waste of energy for both the plane and the train. Once the 753 gets to crusing altitude, its far superior aerodynamics and the thin air would boost its efficiency.
After completing all this work, I found this Boeing page that attempts to answer the question for us:
http://www.boeing.com/commercial/value/evmoreff_5.html. The data assume a ~500 mi run, similar to a Boston-Washington mission.
So, is the train REALLY more efficient "by a wide margin?" Does anyone have any more figures to contribute?
-Marc.