Fuel is also a big cost of running trains. Amtrak should have seen a similar decrease in cost per passenger-mile. But it didn’t.
I'm not sure this is completely true, that Amtrak should have a similar decrease in fuel cost per passenger.
For starters, Amtrak says they decreased fuel totals by 11.3 percent from 2010-2019.
Airlines have achieved fuel savings in ways probably not available to Amtrak:
- reducing the weight of seats and adding seats per plane.
- incentiving passengers to pack less
- purchasing more fuel efficient aircraft as they come available.
Given that the comfort of train travel vs plane travel or driving seems to be a product differentiator for Amtrak, not sure they can do much about seats.
Amtrak could reduce baggage allowances, but again not sure that works for the target market
Finally, as far as I understand, due to poor track across the country, passenger trains generally need to be heavy steel to improve chances in a crash or derailment. Even beyond that, Amtrak can't procure new locomotives or rolling stock whenever they want, since they don't control their own purse strings.
If the American taxpayer didn't keep bailing out airlines, they could not afford to renew their fleets as frequently as they do.