Future of U.S. Rail

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Future of U.S. Rail

Postby SRich » Thu Mar 03, 2016 4:13 pm

The U.S. is an nice country, but is far way behind with rail in compare of the rest of the world(some small country's not included). Freight Rail own many miles of track in low speed quality. Almost everything is diesel powered.
If we compare it to other railroads, where the infrastructure is owned by the government. So why not improve the U.S. railways.

It may be different then aspected but lets discus it:

A few change can improve the railways of the U.S.:

Bring ALL the railroads under (state or) federal control and ownership.
Then create an infrastructuur company who controls the nations train movement and maintenance of it's tracks.
Improve every railway to an minimal speed of 79 m/h.
One signal system (Perhaps CCS) with PTC installed.
Start with Electrifying the bussiest corridors with 25 kV~, and make plans to electrifying the complete nation, but make it possible that double/tripple stack can run under overhead wires.

Raise the fuel tax on everything so it would be cheap to run electric.
The users of the track pay's compensation so the infra company can keep the tracks and system in a state of good repair

Just wondering how you think about this ???? :-D
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby electricron » Thu Mar 03, 2016 4:49 pm

I believe government should never replace private enterprise as long as private enterprise is providing a successful service. The freight railroads are providing a freight service, and a few are willing to provide a passenger service. There's no need to completely reinvent railroads in the USA today.
Let's look at one example where a State (in this case Maine) is subsidizing a passenger intercity rail service (Downeaster). There are privately ran bus services competing very successfully. What would happen if this train was cut? Would there be gridlock between Maine and Boston? I'm willing to suggest that everywhere in the USA where Amtrak runs one or less trains per day that private enterprise (buses or planes) could replace the train service Amtrak provides.
I'm not suggesting I would prefer bus or plane service instead of trains, but I am suggesting the low frequency train services wouldn't be missed that much. Did Las Vegas tourism fall even a little when Amtrak stopped running to it?

More government should not be the answer to every problem. Sometimes getting government out of the way of private enterprise is the better answer.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby NorthWest » Thu Mar 03, 2016 6:10 pm

Define 'behind'.
The American rail system works extremely well for the purposes that it is designed for. This is different than in other countries.
Passenger rail is most competitive in corridors that are shorter than about 500 miles. Freight rail is most competitive when shipments are traveling over 500 miles. Because of the US's lesser population density, there are far more corridors over 500 miles than under it. Thus the rail system operates primarily freight trains.

Unlike in Japan, Europe, China and other nations where electrification is common there is not enough train density on most US rail routes to justify electrification. The US doesn't have the capacity problems that other nations have. It simply isn't economical.

Government-owned infrastructure would probably be a disaster. Canada (CN) and Mexico (NdeM) had national railroads and privatized them. An imperfect example is Australia (almost all diesel) which has had under investment as a result of an open access model. Nobody wants to pay for improvements that another operator will get a free ride on, and their ARTC doesn't have enough upgrade funding. So, problems don't get solved. I think the US would be similar.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby Greg Moore » Thu Mar 03, 2016 10:42 pm

What do I think? I think it's nuts. The US freight system is top in the world. And trying to maintain it at 79mph for the weight of the cars would be so costly as to be prohibitive. Coal trains don't necessarily need to move faster as long as they're moving constantly.

There's a few areas where electrification may be indicated, but the cost of maintaining 1000s of miles of catenary for the level of traffic you'd see, just isn't worth it.

There's room for improvement in the US rail industry, but this ain't it.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby mtuandrew » Sat Mar 05, 2016 2:21 pm

Moderator's Note: Tread carefully - but thanks for respectful posts (including that of the OP) so far.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby mtuandrew » Sat Mar 05, 2016 2:54 pm

As an individual member:

Good luck performing the takings necessary to purchase all land and assets from every railroad company in the United States. Amendment V of the United States Constitution clearly prohibits a taking of private property for public use without just compensation, and this could easily add up to over a trillion dollars (and be assured that the Big Seven class 1s would take such to the Supreme Court, and would almost certainly win the right to keep their full properties.) The best the Federal government can do is to lease, purchase, use existing government-owned, or acquire by eminent domain, rights-of-way between the major cities, and prepare those lines for high-speed alignments.

Also, let's think about electrifying these routes. Members of this forum have asserted over and over that diesel is just not the future of high-speed rail. I'll accept that, but we have an intermodal passenger transportation system. For the moment, aircraft are much faster and relatively efficient at carrying passengers economically over long distances (say, 800+ miles.) Cars are best at transport for 100-150 miles or less. In the middle, we can slot a higher-speed train service, using 125 mph diesel trains or trainsets. To those who say this is uneconomical, I point to the British Rail Class 43 (InterCity 125.) If the British could do it in 1975, the Americans can do it in 2016. It'll just take some work with the FRA to ensure that Crash Energy Management alternate standards can allow for lighter, faster trains.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Sun Mar 06, 2016 5:33 pm

I just found this topic, and I'm pleased to see that everyone participating accepts that the mission of the privately owned Class I roads is to handle freight.

This is the direct opposite of the European roads, which are there to handle passengers with freight being the ancillary product.

All I can say is that based on two trips overseas in the past two years, is that freight traffic is some kind of joke. Freight is governed by the tonnage of passenger trains. In Salzburg, which has been my destination, there is an outdoor restaurant with a view of the action - and an English speaking waiter who made sure I didn't order Octopus or anything "Fische" (I don't eat seafood). A 20 car freight is a normal train. Hoppers handling whatever are probably 40 tons - the US standard 75 years ago!

So I'd dare say when European rail managers come over here, or for that matter China or Russia, they are in awe at our (or their's) roads' capacity to handle freight.

Passengers? Well that's another story.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:02 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby Literalman » Sun Mar 06, 2016 7:56 pm

On March 5 at the annual meeting of the Virginia Assn. of Railway Patrons, we had a presentation by Erik Hansen of the U.S. Travel Assn. He said that road congestion is impacting travel in the United States to the point where people are forgoing trips. He said that average driving times are usually not bad but that at peak times (rush hours, holidays) trip times are so long that they are a serious problem. He said that in ten years the economic impact on the travel and tourism industry will reach $28 billion a year. Karen Riordan of the Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce (we met in Williamsburg, and our theme was rail's impact on tourism and economic development) said that congestion on I-95 has dissuaded people from visiting Williamsburg to the point where numbers are showing a difference. Chris Smith of the Va. Dept. of Rail and Public Transportation said that 4% of Amtrak passengers in Virginia wouldn't make their trip at all if Amtrak didn't run.

I'm not convinced that rail passenger service alleviates road congestion, but I am convinced that it provides an important travel alternative that not only gives people mobility but protects certain sectors of the economy.

The U.S. rail system does a good job of handling freight. I don't see any need for a government takeover. I do see the need for government investment in passenger service.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby FLRailFan1 » Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:11 pm

SRich wrote:Bring ALL the railroads under (state or) federal control and ownership.


You wrote: Put all railroads in Federal control. As a capitalist, I said I hate it...the Federal government should NOT own anything private companies could do (including health care). Politicians can spend $1000 for a toilet seat I can buy at $19.99 at Lowe's. How to ruin the railroads? Give it to the federal government.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby talltim » Tue Mar 08, 2016 6:10 am

FLRailFan1 wrote:You wrote: Put all railroads in Federal control. As a capitalist, I said I hate it...the Federal government should NOT own anything private companies could do (including health care). Politicians can spend $1000 for a toilet seat I can buy at $19.99 at Lowe's. How to ruin the railroads? Give it to the federal government.

You could argue that roads (for cars not trains) are also something that the government shouldn't own.

I find it interesting that back in the beginning rail in Europe and the US grew for the same reasons, a mix of freight and passenger. In fact there were early lines in the UK that saw passengers as an unnecessary inconvenience, getting in the way of the their money-making freight services. However, due mainly to the distances involved, (as detailed above) the ways have parted, with passengers dominant in Europe and freight in the US.
Again with regards electrification there has been a divergence. The US was an early adopter of of electrification and now has nearly none, yet in Europe there is still a push to electrify more. Electrification is not just for high speed, electric locos are far more powerful for their size than diesels, there are the environmental benefits and the cost of oil will still probably go up even with fracking/shale oil etc. But long distance electrification requires lots of infrastructure to build and maintain so you have to have the frequency of trains (passenger or freight) to make it worth while.
There could possibly the case to electrify some of the transcontinental routes which run fast long trains at near line capacity, but these often run for miles in the middle of nowhere, you'd need multiple power supply locations with nowhere obvious to supply from.

Perhaps where electrification in the US could score is in more light rail/interurban/trams. Again the US used to have loads, but, like Britain and unlike the rest of Europe it was all swept away. Long distance passenger rail is a hard sell, but short distance and commuting it can still beat the car, if done right. I don't know how buses (urban rather than long distance) are seen in the US, in the UK outside of London and a few other big cities, buses are viewed as being for people with no other option (I work in a public transport promoting organisation, but even here my colleagues refer to buses as 'peasant wagons!), but trams and trains are 'upmarket' enough to get some get people out of their cars.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby SRich » Wed Mar 09, 2016 5:01 am

Thnx for the respond.

I get that the US has many miles of track. But i believe its also economical to run freight at high speed. If an train must ran for a 1000 miles @ 30 mph or 100 mph you know the time difference. Run on a electric power is cheaper then run on fuel certainly on high speed. Maybe as a solution: Electrify main corridors and large yards to exchange the electric for a diesel v.v.

For information: In Europe 4 axle freightcars may loaded up to 80 ton. And there running about 100 -125 km/h (60-79 mph) on corridors. They a running from China to Netherlands (Rotterdam) and back in just 2 days with electrics.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby talltim » Wed Mar 09, 2016 8:13 am

Some US freights run at considerably more than 30mph now
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby ExCon90 » Wed Mar 09, 2016 4:22 pm

talltim wrote: I don't know how buses (urban rather than long distance) are seen in the US, in the UK outside of London and a few other big cities, buses are viewed as being for people with no other option (I work in a public transport promoting organisation, but even here my colleagues refer to buses as 'peasant wagons!), but trams and trains are 'upmarket' enough to get some get people out of their cars.

The situation in the US is much the same, for both long-distance and city buses. Plenty of examples illustrate that people will ride some form of rail transit who wouldn't be seen getting off a bus.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby mtuandrew » Fri Mar 11, 2016 7:55 am

ExCon90 wrote:The situation in the US is much the same, for both long-distance and city buses. Plenty of examples illustrate that people will ride some form of rail transit who wouldn't be seen getting off a bus.

Especially the "classic" Greyhound (now a FirstGroup subsidiary.) Megabus (Stagecoach Group) and BoltBus (Greyhound) have somewhat better reputations, but still only for those who can't afford the train or plane. There are a few bus lines aimed at business travelers here on the NEC, but again, those are a minority.
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Re: Future of U.S. Rail

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Fri Mar 11, 2016 8:37 am

Mr. Taltim, while freight trains often operate at 60mph, and even some places at 70, for a system average speed of 30 is a bit optimistic.

In order to determine average train speed, go to a road's Annual Report with Operating Statistics (both the R-1 filed with STB and the 10-K filed with the SEC are public documents and contain such), divide train miles by train hours and the quotient will be average train speed. Such of course will include the delays through the bottleneck hubs such as Chicago.
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