Why do Amtrak trains have to be so slow?

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George Harris

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China is not a third world country.
Even if considered a "third world" country, and there is a huge gap between urban normal and rural normal, the thing most often ignored is that China has been building railroads of the normal type at a fairly high rate for some 50 plus years. The main thing that has led to building the high speed lines at the rate they have is primarily a change in focus of the type of railroads being built more than a change in the rate of building of railroads in total. It need also be mentioned that some of the railroads being labeled as high speed lines in the foreign press really are not. Primary example being the line having the collision some time back. Although labeled as being on their high speed railroad system, it really was not. The line although fairly new had been built to carry traffic of all types. It simply carried high speed trains as part of its traffic.
 

George Harris

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now in California
First, a stop "in the middle of nowhere" does not really add that much time to a train's running time. Both by observation and by calculation on a 79 mph railroad a stop adds just about exactly 3 minutes 00 seconds plus dwell time to a passenger train's running time. The actual time does vary somewhat on power to weight ratio, but if you use 3 minutes in your analysis the difference between calculation and reality will be measured in seconds, usually single digits of those.

Second, financial and political reality says were are not going to spend megabucks to permit faster run times. As part of this, for much of the eastern US permitting faster run times requires improved alignment, and anybody who deals with consturction of ANYTHING on a new location knows how difficult it is to even be allowed to do so even if you have the money in hand.

There are more points, but at this time I must start working on the things I am paid to do.
Suspect also at some point, given the politics and government beholden to corporate interests: making trains faster and potentially competing with airlines, it wouldn't be long before we heard that Washington was competing with private business.
No matter what we do, a high speed railroad is not going to compete with any airline on run time for distances of over around 500 miles. Beyond that the competiton is driving time. Unless they are using puppets the silence from the airlines on the Cailf HS is thundering. I would suspect that they have figured out that cutting each other's throats for the distances involved and taking up gate space that could be used for longer and more prifitable flights is a business they would want to leave, but meanwhile they stay in it primarily for the sake of connecting passengers that would be lost to any airline that unilaterally pulled out of the rat race.
 

jis

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I agree with George. If the Caliornia HSR system provides good connectivity to SFO and LAX similar to what exists say to the NEC at EWR, Airlines like United would probably jump on board with code share more completely. If the trains are able to carry checked baggage they'd do so even more enthusiastically since that would make transfers to flights that much more transparent. One of the deterrents to broader use of code share out of EWR and potentially even BWI has been the lack of checked baggage service on the NEC, which makes it difficult for airlines to use the NEC as a transparent means for connecting to their international and transcontinental flights where people tend to have checked baggage. They figure if they have to fly little planes anyway to provide connectivity through their hub, then why bother with code share on rail. However, Amtrak is so strapped for resources that they simply don't have the wherewithal to address that issue, and are already overwhelmed with demand anyway.

In the absence of transparent transfers there will still be some codeshares, but they will be more local in nature like the ones on the NEC - EWR to STM, PHL and NHV AFAIR.
 
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