Time to Push for Amtrak $$

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- North America' started by Dave Flinn, Sep 19, 2001.

  1. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    But you see Rory, you are absolutely correct. You could and maybe should run it with computers. No engineer, just a computer trained operator located most anywhere in the train, able to control all aspects of operations.

    And I think you would find that you could put together a group of model operators who might just surprise the big boys with their knowledge and understanding of high speed operations:D

    Sure wouldn't surprise me though.

  2. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member


    I hate to say it, but we may have something to learn from the French along those lines. The TGV and Paris subway are all managed from central control centers. I want to say that the Paris subway is even remote controlled, but I could be wrong. At any rate, they seem to be doing a lot with high-speed trains...and Amtrak has at least been paying SOME attention (Acela). Maybe we should look a little closer...

  3. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member


    I agree about the TGV, but the Paris subways are showing their age. They are not remote controlled, at least they weren't when I rode on it last year. An excellent example of a realy modern, but again, not remote controlled local system is in Munich, Germany.

    Acela is probably fine as far as the actual train equipment is concerned, although I say that never having been near a real one, but trying to put a fast train on a modified and supposedly upgraded track system would seem to defeat the purpose of a real fast train like the TGV. I think it must have a dedicated right of way and that is why I suggested something like from Chicago to Atlanta where you could generate the passenger traffic and build a system that doesn't cost an arm and a leg aquiring right of way.

  4. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Frist of all what do we want amtrak to be? Then how do we go about funding it? Do we want it to be intercity? Coast to Coast? High speed ? Before we spend more money on Amtrak we must find the answers to these questions. Amtrak has lost money hand over fist since it started. Every one believe the big lie that Amtrak could make money where the Railroads failed! There is no way that Amtrak will be financially stable by 2003,as mandated by congress. As you know Amtrak is deep in dept.So,How do we fix amtrak?
  5. LC

    LC Member

    According to what the headlines are talking about it today it looks like in 90 days there will be a major change of some sort.

    I would cast my first vote to change the name to "National Rail" or something along those lines.

    It appears AmTrack as we know it now will no longer exist.

    A "new beginning" for high speed passenger rail??? Wow, would that be great or what!!:) :)
  6. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    I hope when they redo amtrak that they have learn something by their pass mistakes.And I hope the big lie of 1971 is laid to rest. America needs passinger train service.The passinger train of the furture must be operated on time,have quality service, and above all an operational plan that includes emerency planning to cover all problems to include track work,derailments, and equipment failures this is a must.History teaches us this can be done,by looking back to the passinger train of the so called golden years of railroading.This, I believe can be done.I can't wait to see the new Amtrak of tomorrow!
  7. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    I just heard a radio report that Congress is working on "something new" for Amtrak and that the deadline for self-sufficiency will be ignored. It also sounded like there would be an infusion of money. Maybe our legislators are finally getting the word, and we need to encourage them.
  8. LC

    LC Member

    Let's all hope for the best on this, perhaps once and for all we will have a national system that works, it can be done, and it can also go coast to coast if it's approached right.

    This may take years, but what a thing for our generation to pass on to our children and their children.

    Dave is right, we all need to put a voice of support to every elected official we can think of.

    Many areas of the country saw a need for this a long time ago, why so many deaf ears is beyond me.
  9. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    Fast trains

    It has been rumoured, initial project commenced, planned timetabled etc for a fast train service between Sydney and Melbourne. The Sydney/Melbourne air corridor is the second busiest in the world, with something like 50 flights (767's and Airbus) each day each way between to two. (3 airlines plus internationals (747's)). The flight used to be 55mins 15 years ago, but is now 1hr 20min due to traffic congestion etc. It gets rasied every 6 months or so, when some politician wants some credos, or a construction/engineering co wants some free publicity. It will never be built.

    The fast train proposal was to reduce the current 11 hour train trip (2 each way each day) which uses the British "Intercity 125" technology from the early 80's, on 1960's track, down to about 4 hours using the French TGV technology, or the Swedish "tilt" train, with a train every hour. The project involved building a complete new line.

    Most of the Sydney/Melbourne air traffic is business commuters. These business commuters (me included) will not use the train for the following reasons:
    You have 1 - 2 days business in Melbourne. You can catch the 6 - 7am flight and be in town around 9am for a full days business. Leave at 6pm and be home around 8pm.
    Should you catch the train, you would need to catch the 3 - 4am train to be in Melbourne for 9am, and leave at 6pm, you wouldn't be home till nearly midnight. Of course, you could catch the train the day before, but that would involve accom expenses for the company, and a wasted day/afternoon travelling, effectively doubling the time taken to do a day's business in Melbourne. Of course you could catch the train the evening before, but what good is it to be dumped in Melbourne at, say 1am??
    You can fly Sydney/Melbourne for as little as $160 AUS return ($80 US). SYdney/Melburne is a distance of about 1050kms (650 miles by road). These are pre advanced discount bookings of course. The standard "roll up" fare is about $450 AUS return.

    The current train patronage is old age pensioners that get a free train trip annually as part of their pension. This is about 50% of the train patronage. The rest is backpackers, that have the time and the need to "look around". The standard train fare is about $150 one way. ($300 return). No discount travel is provided for. Two 7 car XPT trains run each way each day (a daytime, and nighttime one). Sleeping berths are about $250 each way.

    This project has been talked about for years. One justification is that Sydney airport is currently at capacity (with night curfews, and movements capped at 80 per hour due to noise etc). To implement the train would remove 30% of the airport traffic, and negate the need for a second airport (which they cannot agree on where to build for the last 20 years!).

    However, in a practical sense, no one will use the train, as the plane is more convienient for the bulk of the air traffic the train intends to replace.

    If the time could be reduced to, say 2 1/2 hours CDB to CBD (both cities have their rail terminals in the CBD) then it would become a viable alternative for business travellers, which make up 75% of the travellers between the two cities. This type of rail speed has not yet been acheived at a cost effective rate to make the fares comparable to flying, and still provide a return on the capital invested in the rail system.

    High speed rail does work effectively in Europe due to the shorter distances travelled and far greater population density to supply passengers. Short air commuter traffic (flights under 1 hour say) can be repalced by high speed rail. Remember most of the amount of time taken to travel short air commuter routes, is in check-in, security, boarding, trundling down the runway, also getting to/from the airport (usually outside the city) etc.

    I travel Sydney/Canberra a lot, and it is quicker to drive than to fly, plus the added advantage of having a car to travel between meetings, plus I can depart when I choose, and not according to a timetable. The current train service is 3 per day using a 3 car deisel railmotor that takes 3 1/2 hours. To drive is just on 3 hours down the freeway. Flight time is 45 mins with a flight every hour. (20 passenger DASH 8). Add check-in time, security, wait etc. It's quicker to drive. A fast train service here could be viable, except the population and demand for it would not be enough. A fast train carrying 200 passengers would need the equivalent of 10 flights to fill it up, making about 2 trains a day. What's the point of a fast train, when you have to wait half a day to catch it??

    Cross country travel (in Australia) for fast train is not an option. Currently it takes 4 1/2 hrs to fly (6 flights a day), or 3 days on the train, with two 15 car trains a week. Train fare is about $1800 return, with the plane at about $800. (of course the train includes all meals, sleeper berth etc) Passengers on the "Indian-Pacific" are close to 100% tourists.

    Fast trains may be an option for rail enthusiasts, but not really a practical solution for long distance travel, (further than, say 300 kms) and would need the population density to provide demand for at least 200 passengers an hour.

    They did build a rail link from Sydney airport to the city (about 10kms) with expected patronage of 50,000 per week, expecting the business commuter to use it. They don't. Current patronage is about 12,000 per week. It is cheaper to catch a cab door to door (for two) than the train fares. It is more convienient to catch a cab if you have bags to lug around. Mum dad kids etc, are not gunna lug grandma and grandpa and bags on the train to the airport to see them off on holidays (and pay 6 fares) when it is just as easy to drive. Only backpackers use it, and airport employees.

    This might seem like a bit of a bitch session, however I'm just pointing out the practical use of high speed trains, over the long distances travelled by airline commuters.

    **soapbox mode off**
  10. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    For those of you who might still be interested in this thread, there is a very interesting article in the March 2002 issue of TRAINS magazine entitled " Our Plan for Amtrak. How It Can Succeed."

    The author, Bob Johnston, has some very valid points, I think, and it will be interesting to see if we can expect any progress in this area. It might do us all well to make copies of the article and send it to our congressional representatives!!

  11. rockislandmike

    rockislandmike Active Member

    An excellent article indeed!!! And no doubt, since that magazine is pretty darned popular, a lot of elected officials will end up reading it as well (at least those with a stake in the Amtrak debate)................
  12. ceebeenq

    ceebeenq Member

    more funding for Amtrak?

    There have been some good points here, including the fact that airlines, freight railroads, truckers, etc, all receive a subsidy in some way from Fed, state, and local tax dollars. The big difference, however, is that all of these entities are private sector and the vast majority of capital that is put at risk by investors. UAL shareholders and bondholders are experiencing large losses based on the ill fortunes of United. Southwest Airlines is doing well because of smart management and cost controls. All of this is entirely untrue of Amtrak.
    I believe Amtrak will continue to be characterized by mediocre, poor, or ghastly service ( these adjectives describe my only experiences) as long as it is run by government bureaucrats who truly don't have to meet the payroll. They simply don't face the reality of shutting down as United Airlines does today. (United may well have had virtually all of the same problems it does, regardless of 9/11)
    If there was a real need or genuine profit opportunity for a national rail service, private capital would have been flowing to it for many years. This obviously has not happened. If Amtrak was really providing a good product with good service and reasonable prices, this debate would be moot. More money is not the answer. Amtrak has had 30 years to get it right and has largely been mis-managed by Congressional never-sight and a service in search of a market.
    Other glaring problems:
    What should be obvious is that as long as Amtrak is a tenant they simply will be butting heads with freight traffic that is straining capacity in many corridors. I think this is an insurmountable problem and the root of many of Amtrak's service problems.
    Another enormous hurdle to making Amtrak "work" is getting Americans out of their cars or off of the jets. We are not at all like Europeans in that regard. Once you get west of Pennsylvania, it's hard to justify train travel in the mind of the average traveler. On the other hand, most of Western Europe would fit in our 48 states.
    I think Amtrak (probably) serves a genuine market on the east coast (NYC to DC) and in several intercity corridors. But I've read lately even the Acela trains have been experiencing poor ridership. Most of the network does not serve a genuine need.
    If Congress was to follow the recommendation of the advisory board, Amtrak would be killed. It is likely, however, that Congress will bail it out again, and more tax dollars will be spent in pork barrel fashion to support Amtrak and allow many Senators and Reps to say cheerfully "they saved Amtrak in their district".
  13. RI541

    RI541 Member

    I rode Amtrak from Houston,Tx to Sringfield,Mass in 1991 I will say it was the best two days of my life.I went from Houston to Chicago then to Sringfield.

    The reason I went up to Chicago then over to Sringfield was because it was a day shorter than just going up the east coast.How can Amtrak explain this?I traveled almost twice as far and saved a day.I took Greyhound From Keene NH to Galvaston Texas in 51 hours.I'll never do the Greyhound again The people(passengers)are just to rude for me.Once I got passed the Caroliners They got a lot nicer.I should have went up the east coast I realy wasnt in a hurry to get home.

    I think that the goverment should take over Amtrak and build it as an independent road.Right now Amtrak Doesnt own many if any of the rails they travel,How can we Blame the owners of the rails for putting Amtrak on a siding?If Amtrak is late that makes the rail owners late with frieght there for costing them money.

    If Amtrak derails who is responsable?Not Amtrak!! The owners of the rails are responsable, its thier rails.Amtrak pays very little if any to use these rails.Amtrak is also running their trains faster than most frieghts,Which I think would cause more damage.

    If the goverment Took them over then redesigned the company and put the mail back on the rails the goverment could be making money,They could rebuild alot of the abondoned rails to provide an even bigger service.but it takes money to make money an the goverment would rather put its money where it shouldnt be.

    I'm not trying to slam Amtrak its a service we all need.I'd rather take a train than fly The scenery is much nicer.

    This is only my opinion and hope I havent offended anyone

    Does Amtrak have any service in NH or Maine? I know they have the Montpieler that runs up the Conneticut River on the Vermont side And they've shut it down once but the people fought to get it back in which the did.


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