Category Archives: High Speed Rail

Real world example of why High Speed Rail is better than flying – 2

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A reader writes in reply to my earlier article on why high speed rail is better than flying:

That DB fare is not at all connected to the cost of running the train. DB is far more subsidized than Amtrak is. [PDF warning] DB reports profits of about $1.94 per train mile while the railroad is receiving $36.78 in public funding. When public funding is taken into consideration, DB Train Operations actually cost the German government $34.88 per train mile. Similarly, passenger rail operations in the other five European countries cost their governments between $13.77 to $27.78 per train mile.

I make no claim that DB less subsidized than Amtrak. However, the report he linked is comparing apples to bratwursts. The level of service isn’t even comparable between Amtrak and DB. On Amtrak the speeds are slower, on older equipment that is close to worn out in stations that are mostly falling apart.

The one flaw in that study that immediately jumps out at me however is that they compared all of DB to just the Amtrak NEC and corridor services. However, DB operates all of the local trains as well as freight. So to have a proper comparison, the study should have also included NJTransit Rail, SEPTA’s Rail (not the subway, trolly, and bus services), MARC, Long Island RR, Metro North, Chicago’s Metra, Chicago’s South Shore, etc etc.

If rail in the US were operated like in Germany, than all of those other companies I mentioned would be part of Amtrak rather than their own entities. Take THOSE subsides into account and the operational subsidy will be much closer and the resulting disparty in service levels and quality will appear that much more drastic.

Another example of why high speed rail is better

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Some more real world examples of how high speed rail would be better than flying:

I flew PIT to PHL on Tuesday. I left my house 5:30am, arrived at the airport at 6:00am, checked no bags, and got to my gate just as they were announcing my boarding zone for my 7:00am flight. Basically, I was as time efficient as possible. We landed on time at 8:26 am. After some taxiing and making it to our gate, I finally get out to the SEPTA terminal to get myself into center city. After a short 10 minute wait, I board the rail train at 9:13am and arrive in center city at 9:35. A very efficient 3 hours and 35 minutes.

But wait. It is only about 300 miles from my house to CC Philly. At 75 mph most of the way, that means I can drive the same distance in about 4 hours and never have to take my shoes off. In fact, I know for certain that I can do the trip in 4 hours 30 minutes with just one stop along the way for food, gas, and bathroom, as I’ve done that very trip many times.

Additionally, if I had to check luggage, I would have needed to be at Pittsburgh airport 30 minutes earlier than I had been per airline requirements, putting flying squarely in line time wise with driving.

Now lets look at some hypotheticals:

Hamburg Germany to Frankfurt Germany is ALSO 300 miles apart. DeutscheBahn can do that run in…… 3 hours 36 minutes!


Click to embiggen:

DeutscheBahn Hamburg to Frankfurt schedule

DeutscheBahn Hamburg to Frankfurt schedule


But here is where DB has an advantage. On the run between Hamburg and Frankfurt, the train makes 3 additional stops to pick up and drop off passengers. That is an opportunity for additional revenue that US Airways doesn’t have. On a similar run between Pittsburgh and Philly I see a potential for 3 intermediate stops as well: Altoona, Harrisburg, and Lancaster.

Now we get down to cost:
My round trip flight to PHL was $190 dollars
You can see in the graphic that a one way ticket on DB is 69 € which works out to about $94. Times 2 = $188

However, DB also offers something called a Bahncard 25 for a cost of 57 Euro. The card allows you to book fares at 25% off for a full year. Just two round trips between Hamburg and Frankfurt more than pays for the cost of the card and any additional trips are available at the 25% off rate.

Now add in the fact that rail is far more comfortable, there is an on board cafe, power outlets, tables, large bathrooms, substantially larger carry on size limits, and the case for high speed rail is just far more compelling than anything the airlines could offer.