Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

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Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby NJTforever » Fri Oct 31, 2014 9:32 am

Hello guys,

Im a student in High School and I was given the assignment of creating a speech about a topic I feel passionate about. So I chose government support and funding of High Speed Rail in the United States. But I hit a brick wall, I really cant find the information I need. So, I have come to the forums for some help. If you guys decide to help me I will be very grateful but here are the topic areas.

The effects High Speed Rail has on...
..the Environment
..the Economy
..on Society
..other (other information that you guys think is important)

Also information and statistics on road travel.
May you please link the references and articles that you also found on the topic.

Thank You, and with your help. :-D
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby djlong » Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:36 pm

You're not going to find anything as far as effects of HSR *in the U.S.* are concerned. Technically speaking, we don't have HSR here. Acela doesn't count since it only goes 150MPH and only in a few select spots.

So that's not helpful. What you CAN do is look at the following areas:

The TGV (Train a Grand Vitess - Very Fast Train) in France. First line opened around 1981. Many many more lines opened afterwards. Had a MAJOR impact on short-haul airline traffic, among other things.

Look at the Eurotunnel (Chunnel) and see when happened to the cross-channel ferries. Also look at what happened to St. Pancras International station in London. A decrepit Victorian-era building that was nearly demolished has been rejuvenated into a magnificent station.

There's the AVE in Spain, the ICE trains in Germany and many more. You should find a LOT more information by expanding your searches.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby ExCon90 » Mon Nov 03, 2014 2:27 pm

In addition to djlong's point about the impact of HSR on air traffic, HSR has almost invariably made major metropolitan areas much more accessible to each other, with many more trips being generated than previously. In France, before TGV, Paris and Lyon were about 4 hours apart via the traditional rail network in the 1950's and-60's, then after some line relocation the time was shortened to 3 hours and something, and there was one major express train leaving Paris at 1:00 pm; the next was at 5:00 pm. Transit time by air was considerably shorter, of course. Today the time by TGV has eclipsed the transit time by air, and trains run every 30 minutes during most of the day. Within the past several years it has become necessary to introduce double-deck trains to handle the demand, and the total travel demand between the two cities must dwarf the total travel by all modes prior to the TGV, simply because it's so easy to get there and back in the same day without passing through airports. I'll see if I can dig up some more specifics about comparison of train services.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby ExCon90 » Tue Nov 04, 2014 2:30 pm

I did some checking about comparative train times before and after TGV, which began operations between Paris and Lyon in 1981:

In April 1978 there were 8 fast trains between Paris and Lyon, the fastest taking 3 hr. 45 min., from morning until the last train arriving in Lyon before midnight, leaving Paris at 1927 and arriving in Lyon at 2330. The fastest left Paris at 1215, 1737, and 1816. (Source: Cook's International Timetable, April 1978.)

In March 2011, there were TGVs taking slightly more or less than 2 hours (the nonstops took 1 hour 57 min.), leaving Paris as follows:
1654-0854 every 30 min.
1954-1554 every 60 min.
1624-2054 every 30 min.
The last train arriving in Lyon by midnight left Paris at 2154, arriving in Lyon at 0003.
Most (perhaps all, it doesn't say) of these trains were bi-level, and many consisted of two trainsets coupled together.
(Source: Cook's European Rail Timetable, March 2011.)

There is no way that volume of passengers came from the airlines, and I seriously doubt they came from the highway. What happened was that the perceived lessening of distance between Paris and Lyon led to increased economic activity involving the two cities. In other words, not only did rail gain a bigger piece of the pie, the pie got a lot bigger, and rail got most of the increase.

It should be interesting to see how economic activity develops involving Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento if California HSR ever gets up and running.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby djlong » Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:21 am

One other area to look at - Japan. I don't know how I forgot to mention the grand-daddy of all HSR, the original Shinkansen "bullet train", opening in 1964 between Tokyo and Osaka. The Japanese pioneered the model that SNCF (the French national railway company) would follow years later.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby lpetrich » Sun Nov 09, 2014 2:55 am

The main downside of high-speed rail is the cost of building dedicated high-speed lines. These can be expensive, and some high-speed-line builders have ended up with a lot of debt. Some people have argued that the operation of high-speed trains on some lines has not recouped the cost of building those lines.

That is also evident from the history of building high-speed lines. It has been rather spastic, bit-by-bit and on-and-off.


There has also been a lot of controversy over the Italian part of the proposed Lyon-Turin line, like opposition to a line in the Susa Valley by the "No TAV" movement. I also recall that there has been some controversy about disruption of groundwater flow by some construction in Spain, but I haven't been able to track down any details.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby GWoodle » Sun Nov 09, 2014 11:14 am

You may go back in the threads to find Obama's promise for the high speed rail program. Projects in California, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin. What has been built is an upgraded Chicago St Louis or Chicago- Detroit sections, none of which could be considered high speed. There are some bits of track that get up to 110mp, no faster. It would be a good project to show how so much money was spent where, with any impact.

You may also try your state's DoT to see if they have any rail projects in the list or whatever is happening there.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby gprimr1 » Mon Nov 10, 2014 12:15 am

The Bullet Train did bankrupt the Nationalized Japanese railway though, but it lead to the creation of the private JR group.

One of the main things to look at with HSR is population density.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby lpetrich » Thu Nov 13, 2014 12:16 pm

gprimr1 wrote:The Bullet Train did bankrupt the Nationalized Japanese railway though, but it lead to the creation of the private JR group.

That's an extreme case of being very expensive.
One of the main things to look at with HSR is population density.

HSR lines usually have at least one big city in them, though some HSR seem like pork barrel.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby ExCon90 » Thu Nov 13, 2014 2:42 pm

Political considerations also enter into it; the LGV Est, Paris to Strasbourg, had very shaky economic justification but it was deemed politically necessary not to leave Alsace-Lorraine out of the picture.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby lpetrich » Thu Nov 13, 2014 8:08 pm

ExCon90 wrote:Political considerations also enter into it; the LGV Est, Paris to Strasbourg, had very shaky economic justification but it was deemed politically necessary not to leave Alsace-Lorraine out of the picture.

So it's much like pork barrel.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby ExCon90 » Fri Nov 14, 2014 2:11 pm

Pork barrel knows no boundaries.
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Re: Pros and Cons of High Speed Rail

Postby electricron » Fri Nov 14, 2014 3:34 pm

ExCon90 wrote:Pork barrel knows no boundaries.

True, everywhere in the world if government subsidizes something, everyone wants a piece of the pie.
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