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Author Topic: USA High Speed Trains  (Read 771 times)

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Offline DarrwestLU6

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USA High Speed Trains
« on: July 16, 2019, 10:05:24 PM »
Found this video of interest:
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/07/why-is-there-no-high-speed-rail-in-the-us.html

At 12 mins 39 there is Richard Branson plugging Virgin Trains USA!
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Offline DarrwestLU6

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2019, 10:08:26 PM »
@Jeff_W - best reply here...
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Offline RailGooner

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2019, 10:41:07 PM »
I am at heart an engineer. My career began in aviation mechanical engineering. I've even dabbled with civil engineering - developing a private carpark and access road for HM The Queen. Consequently I have a keen interest in grand engineering projects, modern or historical. I'm not interested in Chinese trains, but I avidly soak up every bit of news on the engineering of the Chinese high-speed lines.

I'd love to see a project to create a cutting-edge high-speed rail network between the East and West coasts of the USA. With some of the greatest engineering minds/institutes/capabilities available 'in-house' it could be phenomenal. But I can't see it, not in my (yet to be born) grandchildren's life times anyway. :(
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Offline edwin_m

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2019, 08:23:40 AM »
High speed rail can attract most passengers from air if its journey time is less than 3-4 hours.  There are some pairs of cities at that separation but a country-wide network isn't realistic because at those sort of distances almost everyone would fly.  Conversely those distances make the USA ideal territory for rail freight and the owning companies don't want passenger trains messing up their profitable traffic. 

The USA also has a strong culture and political lobby in favour of driving and flying, plus things like Elon Musk's Hyperloop which is probably something of a solution in search of a problem but serves to muddy the waters as an alternative put forward to high speed rail proposals.  Any scheme is probably going to have to be publically funded, something many citizens are highly averse to and the Trump administration is bending over backwards to avoid releasing funds already committed for transit schemes, let alone committing any more. 

So high speed rail in the USA has several major obstacles to overcome.  A route is under construction in California but the difficult bits entering cities have recently been cut back so that it essentially goes from nowhere to nowhere.  A truly private scheme as promoted by Richard Branson might face fewer barriers but raising the money is going to be difficult given that any spare cash would probably be invested into technology companies where a much higher return is expected. 

Offline NScaleNotes

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2019, 09:23:17 AM »
Completely agree with Edwin. Having lived in the US I saw how difficult it is to get funding and build even low-speed passenger/commuter railroads let alone intercity high speed rail. Those operational problems he mentions also come into play with these commuter railroads which are often forced to share freight-lines for at least part of the route. Some commuter rail has been built but it always struck me as quite limited in nature (service area, timetable) often with few transfer options to complete a journey so they always seemed to struggle with ridership and thus future funding.

It's a shame, many US cities did once have quite extensive public transport systems (but that was mostly pre-suburban sprawl and car culture). I'm sure more intercity rail would be necessary if future generations of American city dwellers were to shift inwards (it is happening in some places) and city-wide public transport networks were ever to be resurrected. That'll probably take a long, long time though.
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Offline Bealman

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2019, 10:14:56 AM »
I find this so amusing, but at the same time sad.

With the 50th anniversary of probably the most amazing technical feat ever achieved by humankind, and the entire thing being done by what was obviously innovative and cutting edge technology (for the time) by the United States, a high speed rail link is impossible.

Even more ironic that after WWII, with US aid, Japan developed the most efficient high speed rail system in the world.

The problem is not the engineering, it as usual, a humanity (read political) issue.

The existing US rail system is totally unsuitable for high speed passenger rail travel. It requires a "get to the moon approach," and as already noted, this ain't gonna happen in the foreseeable future.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2019, 10:16:28 AM by Bealman »
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Offline AlexanderJesse

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2019, 10:43:09 AM »
Almost incredible the change between the States from the 19th century and now:

Back then they had a vision like "Let's invest and work for years creating a railway from the east- to the westcoast to further this nation"

Now they are reduced to a vision like those (according to the FBI) psychpathic corporation which does not extend more than 3 months.

Back then the States were also among the most advanced railway technology nations. Today... they import modern locos from Europe.
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Online njee20

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2019, 11:42:44 AM »
The reality is that domestic air travel is cheap and extremely effective within the US. New York to LA is c2,500 miles, you're not going to get that below 12 hours by train, and that'll never ever wash its face given the dozens of daily flights in 5 hours. Even some of the closer cities are still a bloody long way apart, often with some fairly inhospitable terrain in the way.

The Northeast Corridor is pretty good; Boston-New York-Philadelphia-DC has a decent link, with times to rival air travel, and they're investing massively to speed it up in the next couple of decades. There are other pockets of decent connectivity - I've done Seattle-Vancouver and San Diego to LA years ago, and both were good services.

High speed rail is the panacea that a lot of us would like it to be IMO. China's network is anomalous in its sheer scale, because they're growing so fast and can throw epic sums of money at it. France is a great example, as is Japan, because of the relative distance between large cities. IMO the UK isn't that well suited to it, ok you could do London-Manchester, but a lot of people will want to get on/off somewhere in between, and that just adds time.

Offline Bealman

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2019, 11:48:25 AM »
Surely the large distance between major cities makes a high speed rail link more attractive?

We have a similar situation here in Australia.
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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2019, 12:04:27 PM »
To a point, yes, the UK's are too close, the US's are too far away. How's Australia's long distance high speed rail network...?

IMO in general anything beyond about 800 miles is too far to compete on air travel, and then you're doomed to failure. Like the US I'm sure there are pockets in Australia where it's viable, but again, it's got to offer a tangible benefit to those used to taking planes.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2019, 12:06:52 PM by njee20 »

Offline Bealman

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2019, 12:10:39 PM »
Australia is, to a certain extent, in the same situation as the USA.

A very old infrastrucure which would have be to completely circumvented by a new system.

The obvious route here is Sydney-Melbourne which is air traffic intensive.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2019, 12:13:33 PM by Bealman »
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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2019, 12:23:29 PM »
That's exactly my point. Other than a few enthusiasts who would actually take a train from Perth to Sydney? It'd cost billions and take longer than flying.

Sydney - Melbourne being air intensive means you need to attract people away from an established connection. I don't know Australia, but domestic air travel in the US is like taking a bus, you turn up, get on, and fly, so you'll only attract passengers if you can compete on journey time. Stations are usually in city centres, whilst airports are on the periphery, which will help. 10 seconds on Google suggests they're about 550 miles apart. Being generous you can maybe do that in 2.5 hours by train, but that would be real cutting edge, 3 hours is more realistic. Flights appear to be <90 minutes. It's not a slam dunk by any stretch.

I think where countries like Japan and France have the edge is that they had the rail infrastructure before the rise of low-cost flights, so the domestic air services never really got established.

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2019, 12:53:38 PM »
I find this so amusing, but at the same time sad.

With the 50th anniversary of probably the most amazing technical feat ever achieved by humankind, and the entire thing being done by what was obviously innovative and cutting edge technology (for the time) by the United States, a high speed rail link is impossible.

Even more ironic that after WWII, with US aid, Japan developed the most efficient high speed rail system in the world.

Pedantry alert! The Shinkansen network was originally developed on Japan's initiative, in part with a loan from the World Bank.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinkansen#Construction

(And one of the reasons the Shinkansen is so effective is due to the topography of Japan, you can link most of the major population centres with a single line and a journey time which is competitive with flying).
« Last Edit: July 17, 2019, 12:54:47 PM by railsquid »
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Offline NScaleNotes

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2019, 01:13:08 PM »
"Sydney - Melbourne: Being generous you can maybe do that in 2.5 hours by train, but that would be real cutting edge, 3 hours is more realistic. Flights appear to be <90 minutes. It's not a slam dunk by any stretch."

I agree. If 90 minutes is just the flight time then 1 hour 30 minute flight plus 30 minutes to 1 hour check-in, hassle of security, time in baggage claim on the other end and airport transfers. Doesn't seem too bad to me compared to 3 hours on train if you are travelling city centre to city centre. Especially if you are on business, more room at seat probably with table, wifi and mobile connections if that's what you want.
I'm sure similar comparisons could apply on other air corridors. Surely a lot of it is about marketing.

Cost is another issue but the fact that air travel is effectively subsidized in many countries does distort things somewhat while railways and other forms of public transport are expected to be cost neutral.

Perhaps things will change in the future as we are forced to consider the environmental impact of things more critically. I hope slowing down will be part of that and I don't think we even always need high speed rail. The fact we can do a 500 mile journey in 5 hours is frankly amazing when you look at near history but I'm potentially drifting into other topics here.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2019, 01:15:11 PM by NScaleNotes »
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Offline themadhippy

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Re: USA High Speed Trains
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2019, 02:53:01 PM »
 Easiest way to get funding for a new high speed rail infrastructure in the usa is to whisper in trumptons ear (or send him a tweet)  that china iran and even north korea have a better rail service than america.
 Of course nothing will change as the country is run   by those who have a vested interest in the oil industry,keeping the car king keeps the money rolling in for them.
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