Forums > Social Discussion > High Speed Rail in the U.S.

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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Member Since: 28th May 2001
Total posts: 13920
Posted:http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/16/obama.rail/index.html
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Originally Posted By: Cnn.com, Fair Use excerpt
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama unveiled his administration's blueprint for a new national network of high-speed passenger rail lines Thursday, saying such an investment is necessary to reduce traffic congestion, cut dependence on foreign oil and improve the environment.

Do you think the government should be constructing HSR systems? Or should this be left to the market? Why do you think HSR hasn't caught on in the U.S. while every other major industrialized nation is either building or already has these systems?

Should the government provide the infrastructure and allow privateg firms to operate the trains, or should the government control both?

Whaddya think?


-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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willworkforfoodjnr
willworkforfoodjnr

Hunting robot foxes
Location: Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Member Since: 8th Aug 2007
Total posts: 1046
Posted:The government should definately control both! Much of the building works may need to be contracted out but do not relinquish control of the system itself. In the UK we have private companies controling the rail system and the prices consistently rise far above inflation while the companies continue to claim bancrupcy and recieve huge state handouts.

It is cheaper for me to drive from my home than to get a train on any long distance (over 50 miles) journey. Even if its only just the one person in the car. (I mean a royal 'me', I don't actually drive.


Working hard to be a wandering hippie layabout. Ten years down, five to go!

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Mr Majestik
Mr Majestik

coming to a country near you
Location: home of the tiney toothy bear
Member Since: 9th Mar 2004
Total posts: 4693
Posted:yes government control is usually the right way to go with national infrastructure. people owning what the people need puts the public interest before the profit margin. perhaps leasing could be considered, but ultimately i think governement should own or invest in many vital services and utilities.

this is from the boy whos father and grandfather both worked for government owned companies that were sold off and the provision of service and quality of product went down in both cases.


"but have you considered there is more to life than your eyelids?"

jointly owned by Fire_Spinning_Angel and Blu_Valley

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Mother_Natures_Son
Mother_Natures_Son

Rampant whirler.
Location: Geelong, Victoria, Australia!
Member Since: 1st Aug 2007
Total posts: 2418
Posted:Most delays on the Geelong/Melbourne line are due to the two companies (V/line and Connex) not being able to communicate properly and as such having wasted time getting track signals and rights.

If both were in public hands there would be no issue because there wouldnt be two sets of red tape to cut through when working out signals at the melbourne end.


hug

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Mr Majestik
Mr Majestik

coming to a country near you
Location: home of the tiney toothy bear
Member Since: 9th Mar 2004
Total posts: 4693
Posted:case in point.

going back you have the example of victorian and new south welsh train lines being developed independantly and when they met at the border, uh ohes tracks are different widths. one service (national train network) delivered by multiple companys wont work. one network owned by one private company will look to capitalise on the monopoly to its own advantage.

a business will always look at the public as a consumer to make money off.

a government run business, a public service, will seek as a priority to best serve its community. people before profits?


"but have you considered there is more to life than your eyelids?"

jointly owned by Fire_Spinning_Angel and Blu_Valley

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Mynci
Mynci

Macaque of all trades
Location: wombling free...
Member Since: 27th Apr 2005
Total posts: 8737
Posted:I suppose it depends, if the government can make a capital gain or will it be a drain on their coffers. We don't really have any HSR in the UK as our rail network is so old to be fair, when the government sold off UK rail networks they weren't stupid, the maintainance cost was astronomical as it is one of the oldest natinal rail networks in the world and almost needs to be completely replaced.

A couple of balls short of a full cascade... or maybe a few cards short of a deck... we'll see how this all fans out.

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railspinner
railspinner

journeyman
Location: canada
Member Since: 8th Oct 2008
Total posts: 99
Posted:well the entire US freight rail infrastructure was privately built, and the US freight rail is increadibly expansive. It works out good with so many companys in the business.

But I suspect if HSR was put into private hands in the US, their would probably be only a few companys in the game, and I think it would be detrimental.

I also think the government is more inclined to invest in unconventional ideas with HSR. Like for example one thing that would make it massivly succesful in america the way it relys on cars so much is a heavy reliance on rail to road car carriers. With hybrid and electric cars around the corner, and a country dependent on cars theirs no reason why you shouldn't be able to drive your car onto a train car, plug it in and charge it as you travel down the rails to your destination, then drive off.


The less people know the more they believe

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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Member Since: 28th May 2001
Total posts: 13920
Posted:So here's how I envision at least one model. The government owns and operates the tracks, control systems, and possibly even the traction cars. The trains themselves (meaning the cars, their maintenance, the on-board experience, etc.) would be run by private companies.

So one model would be a government traction car (locomotive) with three Virgin, two Amtrak, four United, etc. cars all lined up behind it.

The other model would work more like the airline industry in which the government would control slots (scheduling) and the infrastructure, but the private companies would maintain their own rolling stock all compatible with North American High-Speed Rail Network Standards. These schedules would need to be tightly regulated and enforced and companies would have to be warned that a delay of more than 5 minutes on a departure will result in cancellation of that train.

The private companies would completely control their own fleet of rolling stock, perform or contract the maintenance, control the on-board experience, pricing structure, etc.

The third model is the Government Monopoly model used in the US Post Service and most other HSR systems.

Originally Posted By: Mr Majestik
a government run business, a public service, will seek as a priority to best serve its community. people before profits?

That's a nice theory, but at least in the U.S. many government agencies seem to exist more to perpetuate their own existence more than they exist to serve the people. I do wonder if a more public/private style venture similar to the US Post Office might work. The problem is that even that model isn't working well. A visit to the Post Office is an awful experience. Today it took me 30 minutes to buy a book of 20 stamps because they don't have vending machines for those at our local branch and the line was 10 people long.

There are advantages to privatization, too.


-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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Mother_Natures_Son
Mother_Natures_Son

Rampant whirler.
Location: Geelong, Victoria, Australia!
Member Since: 1st Aug 2007
Total posts: 2418
Posted:Originally Posted By: Doc LightningSo here's how I envision at least one model. The government owns and operates the tracks, control systems, and possibly even the traction cars. The trains themselves (meaning the cars, their maintenance, the on-board experience, etc.) would be run by private companies.


At the moment in Victoria, Australia I believe the rails are owned by the government and the rest owned by private companies. You can't really have only traction cars in the hands of the government because you'll find if you go beyond the diesel haul locomotives the traction car and the passenger car are the same thing, if theres more than one carriage each one is quite literally capable of generating its own power and controlling the direction of travel. This will be the case on the fast rail services.

An issue with having many cars owned by different companies on one service would be for the smaller services, who gets to put cars on those? Bidding war? Wouldnt that result in a price rise? But also because there'd be issues with shunting and preparation of the cars for customers.

I suppose you could leave all that in government hands as well and have the companies pay a fee to them for cleaning and whatever else, otherwise you'd end up with many more staff members than needed and as such a general increase in ticket price.

Even then most of the costs are in the hands of the government, they control most of the overhead costs of the other companies, all they do is control profit margins and isn't that the component we want to avoid?

Originally Posted By: Doc Lightning
These schedules would need to be tightly regulated and enforced and companies would have to be warned that a delay of more than 5 minutes on a departure will result in cancellation of that train.

Late departures are usually a result of something out of the direct control of the companies hands. A late arrival due to anything from hot tracks to signalling issues would result in a train not being available to prepare for the next journey. Cancelling trains is a huge cost to the consumers and will end up placing a strain on the system overall, especially in peak hours.

hug


hug

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Dom
Dom

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: Bristol, UK
Member Since: 19th Dec 2001
Total posts: 3009
Posted:I've taken a short trip on Amtrak and it was pretty fascinating. There's all sorts of interesting people you can sit next to!

HSR is incredibly expensive to build and to be used the companies shouldn't charge the fares needed to pay back the build cost quick enough for investors to be happy. So government funding is necessary and in order to make sure the investment isn't left to rust the maintenance needs to be by a not for profit company with oversight from the government. This is different from the central government running something directly, which usually ends in trouble.

This happens in the UK, with private companies running the trains, and it's just about working compared to when everything was privately owned, an experiment that probably cost some people their lives. The split works as I think train companies do provide a better service now than when it was all state owned.

In the UK certain fares like advance and off-peak are limited by the government, making them a cheap option for travel. This is essential as in America HSR competes with air travel more than in Europe as the distances involved are bigger. If it's still cheaper to fly from SF to LA why take the train?

But as oil prices will rise again and when limits on air travel are imposed the local services will be cut first, so better to have a HSR option in place before that happens!


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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Member Since: 28th May 2001
Total posts: 13920
Posted:Originally Posted By: Mother_Natures_Son
Late departures are usually a result of something out of the direct control of the companies hands.

The thing is that every HSR system has a spectacular on-time record. Shinkansen has an average delay of less than 5 seconds over its entire operational history of some 40 years. And that includes volcanoes, typhoons, earthquakes, etc. AVE in Spain has a 99.7% on-time record. TGV and ICE have similar records.

So if this can be done on every other system, then it should be possible on ours.


-Mike )'(
Certified Mad Doctor and HoP High Priest of Nutella

"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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