Airline and Regional Rail Code Shares

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Seaboard92

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I just read the other day that Austrian Airlines will no longer fly between Vienna (VIE) and Salzburg (SZG) instead offering an AIRail on ÖBB's Railjets from the Vienna Airport Station to Salzburg Main station. Which leads me to this proposal.

In the United States instead of offering myriad regional jets between hubs and local spokes to the hub, why not run an AirRail System. To showcase my proposal I am only going to focus on the two largest airports near me Atlanta, GA (ATL), and Charlotte, NC (CLT)

Charlotte, NC Regional Destinations
-Asheville, NC (AVL) AE
-Atlanta, GA (ATL) AA, DL
-Augusta, GA (AGS) AE
-Charleston, SC (CHS) AA, AE
-Columbia, SC (CAE) AE
-Fayetteville, NC (FAY) AE
-Florence, SC (FLO) AE
-Greensboro, NC (GSO) AA, AE
-Greenville, NC (PGV) AE
-Greenville, SC (GSP) AE,
-Jacksonville, NC (OSJ) AE
-New Bern, NC (EWN) AE
-Raleigh, NC (RDU) AA
-Roanoke, VA (ROA) AE
-Savannah, GA (SAV) AE
-Wilmington, NC (ILM) AE

Atlanta, GA (ATL) Local Routes
-Albany, GA (ALY) DC
-Augusta, GA (AGS) DL
-Birmingham, AL (BHM) DL
-Charlotte, NC (CLT) AA, AE, DL
-Charleston, SC (CHS) DL, WN
-Chattanooga, TN (CHA) DL, DC
-Columbia, SC (CAE) DL, DC
-Columbus, GA (CSG) DC
-Greenville, SC (GSP) DL, WN
-Jacksonville, FL (JAX)
-Knoxville, TN (KNX) DL, DC
-Montgomery, AL (MGM) DC
-Nashville, TN (BNA) DL, WN
-Savannah, GA (SAV) DL
-Valdosta, GA (VLD) DC


So now looking at the rail network between all of these cities you have plenty of options.
The low hanging fruit is this train route.

Birmingham-Atlanta-Greenville-Charlotte-Greensboro-Raleigh. You are eliminating five short haul flights. While I would not expect people taking the train the entire way between Birmingham and Raleigh you would have the ability to have some of those passengers. By doing this the airlines would be opened up to Anniston, AL, Gainesville, GA, Toccoa, GA, Clemson, SC, Gastonia, NC, Kanappolis, NC, Salisbury, NC, High Point, NC, Burlington, NC, Durham, NC, Cary, NC.

The airlines benefit by adding 11 code share destinations, and by eliminating costly regional flights. The airport authorities benefit by freeing up slots at Atlanta, and Charlotte to other destinations. And lastly the railroad operator benefits by having increased frequency, higher passenger numbers, and airline paid for marketing. The trains could be used by non airline passengers for intermediate markets as well. Then run the train every three hours from six in the morning to nine in the evening.

Other low hanging fruit I see from the Charlotte hub are
-Charlotte-Hamlet-Wilmington, NC
-Charlotte-Columbia-Charleston
-Charlotte-Columbia-Augusta-Atlanta
-Charlotte-Greensboro-Raleigh-Jacksonville, NC
-Charlotte-Salisbury-Asheville
-Charlotte-Columbia-Savannah

Low hanging fruit from Atlanta is more significant because as well as an air hub it is also a rail hub.
-Atlanta-Chattanooga-Nashville
-Atlanta-Chattanooga-Knoxville
-Columbus-Atlanta-Macon-Savannah
-Atlanta-Montgomery
-Atlanta-Macon-Valdosta-Jacksonville
-Montgomery-Atlanta-Greenville-Charlotte-Greensboro-Raleigh

By offering these routes Georgia could have an amazing rail network similar to what it has lost since 1952. The airlines benefit from shedding costly flights to the smaller airports, the airport authority in Atlanta or Charlotte benefit from having more slots to give to new airlines, or more varied destinations, local governments benefit by not having to fund their local airports, and the Railroad operator benefits by getting highly patronized and frequent passenger trains.

Now imagine doing something similar to this out of all of the major airline hubs like MSP, Chicago, NYC, DFW, HOU, etc.....
 

Devil's Advocate

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In the United States instead of offering myriad regional jets between hubs and local spokes to the hub, why not run an AirRail System.
I would think the first problem is that we don't bother to connect our travel resources and in some cases seem to go out of our way to keep everything separate and disconnected. This makes travel between modes tedious and difficult. I've connected between planes, trains, and buses in Europe and Asia and tried to make it work it here as well, but most of the time it does not pan out. Trains and planes almost never mix in a practical way, buses that serve airports are focused on staff rather than passengers, and no last mile carrier serves my home station during scheduled calling times. These issues are fixable and worthy of pursuit, but it will take more effective governing to make such connections easy enough to be useful.
 
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DCAKen

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How much of the traffic for these routes is driven by connecting traffic? You'd have to factor in the time and convenience to get from the airport to the train station and for your examples, that's not a trivial thing. It would be quite different if the train station and airport were much better integrated, but that's a pipe dream.
 

jebr

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I think an easier short-term plan would be to run frequent buses from the hubs to nearby smaller communities. Buses could much more easily drop people off right at the airport, it wouldn't require negotiation with freight railroads, and the initial cost would likely be cheaper.

There's some of this already - many airports have regional shuttle services that connect passengers from smaller cities to the airport, though they usually focus on a fairly small radius (2ish hours is usually about the top end for when they run.) They're also somewhat expensive, and they aren't linked directly to your airline ticket.

A more interesting model is what Landline is doing in MSP - they run buses every few hours direct from MSP to both the Duluth airport and the Mankato airport, taking advantage of the existing parking and lobby infrastructure there. They've also built a codeshare agreement with Sun Country Airlines - you can book your bus trip directly with your airline trip on Sun Country's website, and it's considered a connection just as if you were connecting between two Sun Country flights. When checking in (even at a Landline stop,) you get all your tickets, both bus and air, at that time, and baggage is checked and carried through as well. Thus, when you arrive at MSP, you can go straight to the security line with your carry-on luggage, and then to your gate. I've taken the bus, and it's relatively inexpensive (anywhere from $9 to $39) and quite comfortable. An expansion on that sort of model seems like a good way to connect cities to the major hub airports without requiring as much regional jet infrastructure.
 

Seaboard92

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In Charlotte the state just built a freight yard between Runways 36L and 36C for a multi modal freight initiative. So there is no reason you couldn't put a passenger station in that area as well and connect it to the terminal. Atlanta is also an airport with decent rail connections. The former A&WP runs just west of the airport area.

I do think from an environmental conscious thought, and from improving rail service in the country that this would be a fairly good proposal. Now it wouldn't compete with airlines on speed, it would hit the smaller cities that are too small to have commercial service of any kind.
 

Exvalley

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I would think the first problem is that we don't bother to connect our travel resources
Agreed. It works well in Austria because the airline/rail connections already exist. I really like the idea of using rail as the final "short distance" carrier, but it would require many years and countless billions of dollars to make that work.

I wonder what airport would have the least obstacles? The Metra station at O'Hare gets you to a parking lot, not the terminal itself. Baltimore and Newark come to mind.
 

Bob Dylan

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Agreed. It works well in Austria because the airline/rail connections already exist. I really like the idea of using rail as the final "short distance" carrier, but it would require many years and countless billions of dollars to make that work.

I wonder what airport would have the least obstacles? The Metra station at O'Hare gets you to a parking lot, not the terminal itself. Baltimore and Newark come to mind.
Philadelphia, Portland,Seattle,Oakland,Denver,DFW,
Milwaukee,Austin
 

Seaboard92

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Honestly the closest rail to an airport has to be Charlotte-Douglas International. Back in 2012? they built a rail yard between 36L and 36C Runways. The distance to the end of the terminal is .8 of a mile. Fun fact the longest connection in Charlotte airport is a .8 mile hike. So it isn't unprecedented there.

The O'Hare transfer station is honestly not that bad of an option. You can take the Airport Transfer train to the Economy Parking F stop. Then it is a 900 ft walk to the inbound platform. Granted you would ideally want a few more tracks so you can clear the mainline. To reach the routes I would use to go to key points like Indy/Detroit and cities east of Chicago I would use the NCS right of way to Union and use the thru track.

For points north like Milwaukee and St. Paul you would have to need to install a connection at Vernon Hills on the EX Soo now CN line to the old Milwaukee to Rondout.

For Points West like Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City. For Omaha you would want to install a connection in Des Plaines to the Union Pacific, follow the secondary down the west side of ORD double back to Franklin Park and take the Harbor Belt south From there you can join the UP West line for Omaha, or continue south and build a connection onto BNSF at La Grange Road.

If anyone can tell I've actually evaluated that before. What almost all of you forget about me is just as much as I'm a train guy, I'm a big aviation person.
 

the_traveler

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The trouble with ATL is that to get from the airport to the train is a MAJOR undertaking! There are no direct bus or METRA lines between them, plus they’re on 2 separate sides of Atlanta.

I once went to Atlanta for a convention by the airport. I took a train down, and rented a car near the train station. Because this (Hertz I think) location only paid cab fare one-way. I turned in the car at the airport and got a shuttle back to the train station. I think it was well over an hour and over $20 (at that time).

i don’t know many who will want to do that - and transfer their bags too.
 

jiml

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American Airlines has had codeshares on DB in Germany and adjacent countries for years, so this is nothing new in Europe. I'm also old enough to remember when Continental Airlines partnered with Amtrak. We took Amtrak to California and flew back, getting CO miles for both legs.

What @Seaboard92 has suggested makes total sense, no matter how unlikely it is to happen. Both the US and Canada have this fascination with flying short distances, which on closer examination would be better left to railways. A 300 mile flight that requires check-in at an airport some distance from a city center an hour before flight time, followed by an hour flight (not including any delay), then arrival at another airport far from town, makes little sense when compared with reasonably fast rail from downtown to downtown.
 

railiner

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Sounds nice, but...I wonder how the cities that do have regional air service presently, would feel about this plan--about losing their air service in favor of trains?
Would be interesting to see such a poll....
 

me_little_me

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I've always been in favor of such an idea.

It reduces by half the number of flights to the major airport making 5 parallel runways in Atlanta an unneeded waste of money (think what those billions could have done if spent on rail).

It reduces the need for every competing small city to have its own waste-of-space-but-politically-motivated ("WE have an airport so we're important") airport or to keep expanding it. I constantly see Asheville and Greenville try to outdo each other re airports.

It simplifies airline scheduling - fewer delayed long distance flights that make a mess of connecting "local" ones and vice versa.

If a high speed connection were made between Atlanta and Charlotte, a problem at one airport could allow people to easily get to the other for their long distance connections.

It then allows as mentioned multi-city connections and intermediate stops on local trains to connect more towns end enable commuting.

Atlanta airport is a great city to have rail lines particularly from the south and east/west because of it's location on the south end of town and closeness to I-285 where a flyover rail line could be built to connect with east-west lines as well as and already having close southbound freight lines. Northbound is not as good because Knoxville, Chattanooga, Tri-Cities and Asheville are in the mountains making for slow rail travel and possibility of snow. Existing NS rail goes through mountain towns in north Georgia to get to Greenville (then to Spartanburg and Charlotte) but a new connecting line along I-85 from Greenville could fix that bit. Existing heavy rail (MARTA) from downtown right into the terminal building is a big plus.

Of course, it's all a waste of thought unless Georgia is interested in passenger rail and that doesn't exist.
 

Seaboard92

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What @Seaboard92 has suggested makes total sense, no matter how unlikely it is to happen. Both the US and Canada have this fascination with flying short distances, which on closer examination would be better left to railways. A 300 mile flight that requires check-in at an airport some distance from a city center an hour before flight time, followed by an hour flight (not including any delay), then arrival at another airport far from town, makes little sense when compared with reasonably fast rail from downtown to downtown.
I've actually started work writing a more scholarly article on the subject specifically looking at the Charlotte airport because it has four of the top ten shortest flights in the American system.

More specifically

3. Greenville/Spartanburg (76 Miles)
4. Greensboro (82 Miles)
7. Columbia (89 Miles)
9. Asheville (92 Miles)

Out of those one is already serviced by the Piedmont/Carolinian and Crescent five times a day from Charlotte. Greenville/Spartanburg is low hanging fruit seeing the state of North Carolina actively wants to extend the Piedmont down to Atlanta provided funding from SC and GA comes in. Columbia also is short enough to make sense and could be tied into sections from Charleston and Augusta as well. Asheville doesn't make sense with the mountains as a large obstacle.

The other advantage Charlotte has the airport is right off the main line and the state has spent millions building an intermodal freight yard on airport property. Which would allow for passenger trains to leave the mainline and give Norfolk Southern more fluidity in operations. Currently when the Piedmont is laying over in Charlotte it ties up one of the two mains in the station area forcing a bottleneck. By opening an airport station where the Piedmont could layover off of the mainline gives Norfolk Southern a more fluid mainline. Convert the current Charlotte station into a thru station instead. The airport station would likely pick up the passengers who board in Charlotte from the west and south because it is easier to reach.

I've always been in favor of such an idea.

It reduces by half the number of flights to the major airport making 5 parallel runways in Atlanta an unneeded waste of money (think what those billions could have done if spent on rail).

It simplifies airline scheduling - fewer delayed long distance flights that make a mess of connecting "local" ones and vice versa.

Atlanta airport is a great city to have rail lines particularly from the south and east/west because of it's location on the south end of town and closeness to I-285 where a flyover rail line could be built to connect with east-west lines as well as and already having close southbound freight lines. Northbound is not as good because Knoxville, Chattanooga, Tri-Cities.

Of course, it's all a waste of thought unless Georgia is interested in passenger rail and that doesn't exist.
Exactly it frees up space at the busy hubs that could then be used by more profitable flights to transcontinental, or transatlantic or transpacific flights. Where the airlines could themselves make more money. It would also give the ability for new airlines to start up because in the current system it is hard for an airline to start up when all the slots are taken up by the four legacy carriers. Three of those are using a vast amount of the slots on small sub 100 passenger aircraft.

What I would like to know in the 750 mile rule does it matter who provides the funding? Lets say in my Charlotte case, two of the prime routes to do enter South Carolina a state that is highly unlikely to fund anything. If American Airlines wanted to pursue a train option couldn't they just pay the subsidy cost which would likely be cheaper on a per passenger basis than the current flights.

Railroads have a high fixed cost but for an operator who is contracting with Amtrak or some other entity the fixed costs are strictly in rolling stock acquisition and repair when you are running on trackage rights over a railroad such as Norfolk Southern. Norfolk Southern has the higher fixed cost of track maintenance, and C&S maintenance. And in quite a few cases platform and station maintenance. So a passenger operator has a smaller fixed cost much like the passenger airlines who are running into tax payer paid airports, runways, and dispatching.

Of course Atlanta airport is positioned well for service for southbounds as you could get to Columbus, Montgomery, and Macon/Savannah relatively easily. But if the freight railroads and the state of Georgia were serious about unclogging Atlanta which they really should be. They would build a Kansas City style flyover at their massive interlocking south of the current Amtrak station. If that was fixed you could easily send trains to Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Birmingham, Greenville/Spartanburg, Augusta, etc....

Putting the new station for Atlanta at the airport would actually make sense from an operations standpoint. You could have a station completely off the mainline which is a problem at the current station. And on a train like the Crescent speed really isn't the most important factor because no matter how you look at it a flight from Atlanta or any other point south to New York is still going to be faster. So what is an extra thirty minutes on a 30 plus hour carding?
 

Bob Dylan

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Washington National links via Metro directly to Alexandria and a connection to Washington Union Station
Thanks, rode it many times myself!( but got to where I used BWI more often when flying)
 

MARC Rider

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Philadelphia - Harrisburg: There's already a station in the Philadelphia airport terminal.
Washington (National) to Richmond/NewportNews/Norfolk/Charlottesville/Lynchburg/Roanoke: The train line runs right by National Airport, not sure how easy it would be to put in a station.
 

MARC Rider

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Denver - Cheyenne and Denver to Colorado Springs. There's already a train station at DIA, I suspect they'd have to run to downtown, which means they could also serve Union Station, but there would have to be some backup moves, I guess because of the track layout.
 

MARC Rider

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BWI, my home airport, is right off the NEC. I'd like to see them build a side line off the NEC right into the terminal so at least some train connections could be made without having to use the shuttle bus. If they could figure out a way to interchange the NEC with CSX south of Baltimore (the two lines cross right south of Halethorpe), they could run connecting intercity rail to Frederick, Martinsburg and Cumberland.
 

MARC Rider

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Washington National links via Metro directly to Alexandria and a connection to Washington Union Station
The Amtrak route (now owned or soon to be owned by Virginia, I guess) runs right by the airport. It seems like it wouldn't be too hard to put in a station and a passageway separated from traffic. Having to make another connection, especially one that requires a separate fare system, seems to me would discourage people from connecting to the train.

The ultimate would be to have rail platforms right in the terminal behind the security screening, so that the connection is indistinguishable from a connecting flight. Of course, that would require that the train service has baggage service and and agreement with the airlines for exchanging baggage. Plus, all the train stations along the line would have to have Airport-style security, although I guess you could have inbound trains discharge outside the security screening, and passengers would have to re-check baggage, sort of like what one does when making a flight connecting to El Al.
 

railiner

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Philadelphia - Harrisburg: There's already a station in the Philadelphia airport terminal.
Washington (National) to Richmond/NewportNews/Norfolk/Charlottesville/Lynchburg/Roanoke: The train line runs right by National Airport, not sure how easy it would be to put in
Doesn't the Philadelphia-Harrisburg Keystone line run right by the Harrisburg airport (at Middletown), as well? Maybe stop there?
 

TWA904

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Back in April the French govt. told Air France that it can no longer compete with the TGV for point to point traffic where the train trip is 2.5 hours or less. Some routes affected are CDG and ORY to Lyon, Bordeaux, Nantes and Rennes. AF can still operate flights to these cities and long as all passengers are connecting to/from other destinations. No local point to point passengers
 
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me_little_me

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Out of those one is already serviced by the Piedmont/Carolinian and Crescent five times a day from Charlotte. Greenville/Spartanburg is low hanging fruit seeing the state of North Carolina actively wants to extend the Piedmont down to Atlanta provided funding from SC and GA comes in. Columbia also is short enough to make sense and could be tied into sections from Charleston and Augusta as well. Asheville doesn't make sense with the mountains as a large obstacle.
Unfortunately, what is good for NC is not necessarily good for SC i.e. Greenville/Spartanburg ,as GSP is the hometown airport so SC helping NC eliminate the shorter flights may stoke fears of losing the airport importance for a "measly" train station even though there are other cities that GSP has direct flights to.
Cites love having their own airport and everyone wants their name on the Title so it's Greenville/Spartanburg, not Greenville. Part of it is that corporations want to build near where there are commercial airports whereas it used to be near freight trains. However, that wouldn't preclude NC from paying SC's bill but w/o Georgia in there, it's more difficult. Without GA and SC, it's only a dream and neither have been interested.
 

MARC Rider

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Unfortunately, what is good for NC is not necessarily good for SC i.e. Greenville/Spartanburg ,as GSP is the hometown airport so SC helping NC eliminate the shorter flights may stoke fears of losing the airport importance for a "measly" train station even though there are other cities that GSP has direct flights to.
Cites love having their own airport and everyone wants their name on the Title so it's Greenville/Spartanburg, not Greenville. Part of it is that corporations want to build near where there are commercial airports whereas it used to be near freight trains. However, that wouldn't preclude NC from paying SC's bill but w/o Georgia in there, it's more difficult. Without GA and SC, it's only a dream and neither have been interested.
I think the extended Piedmont service would be better justified by the goal of taking cars off of I-85 and perhaps getting some Clean Air Act credit. If they get a few people connecting to the Atlanta or Charlotte airports, or even an airline deciding to code-share, that would just be a little extra gravy.

It's not clear to me what the level of service is to GSP, anyway. I took a couple of work trips to Greenville (US home of Michelin Tires), and the fares quoted from BWI to Greenville were so high (and I believe there were no direct flights at the time) I was able to talk the boss into letting me ride down on the Crescent in a sleeper. But that was before Southwest started flying there, so both the service and fares might be better now.
 

jiml

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I've actually started work writing a more scholarly article on the subject specifically looking at the Charlotte airport because it has four of the top ten shortest flights in the American system.

More specifically

3. Greenville/Spartanburg (76 Miles)
4. Greensboro (82 Miles)
7. Columbia (89 Miles)
9. Asheville (92 Miles)

Out of those one is already serviced by the Piedmont/Carolinian and Crescent five times a day from Charlotte. Greenville/Spartanburg is low hanging fruit seeing the state of North Carolina actively wants to extend the Piedmont down to Atlanta provided funding from SC and GA comes in. Columbia also is short enough to make sense and could be tied into sections from Charleston and Augusta as well. Asheville doesn't make sense with the mountains as a large obstacle.

The other advantage Charlotte has the airport is right off the main line and the state has spent millions building an intermodal freight yard on airport property. Which would allow for passenger trains to leave the mainline and give Norfolk Southern more fluidity in operations. Currently when the Piedmont is laying over in Charlotte it ties up one of the two mains in the station area forcing a bottleneck. By opening an airport station where the Piedmont could layover off of the mainline gives Norfolk Southern a more fluid mainline. Convert the current Charlotte station into a thru station instead. The airport station would likely pick up the passengers who board in Charlotte from the west and south because it is easier to reach.
You've obviously done your homework; too bad you don't have someone's "ear" to actually suggest this.
 

jiml

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Of course Atlanta airport is positioned well for service for southbounds as you could get to Columbus, Montgomery, and Macon/Savannah relatively easily. But if the freight railroads and the state of Georgia were serious about unclogging Atlanta which they really should be. They would build a Kansas City style flyover at their massive interlocking south of the current Amtrak station. If that was fixed you could easily send trains to Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Birmingham, Greenville/Spartanburg, Augusta, etc....

Putting the new station for Atlanta at the airport would actually make sense from an operations standpoint. You could have a station completely off the mainline which is a problem at the current station. And on a train like the Crescent speed really isn't the most important factor because no matter how you look at it a flight from Atlanta or any other point south to New York is still going to be faster. So what is an extra thirty minutes on a 30 plus hour carding?
Would a single freight railway be positioned to serve Atlanta airport and points south, or would it require a Dallas-Fort Worth style arrangement like the one that handles the Texas Eagle? Although some new trackage would be required to access an ATL airport station, I would think the objective would be to get to existing rails as soon as possible with as few "partners" as possible.
 
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