Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Wed Jul 26, 2017 9:06 am

Statkowski wrote:
george matthews wrote:
The Trans-Siberian is electrically powered. Longer than any line in the US.


The Trans-Siberian has zero competition from anything similar to the American interstate highway system. Its traffic patterns are quite simple compared to American cross-country rail movements. It's government-owned, essentially separated from economic reality. Considering the available Soviet/Russian-designed diesel-electrics available, electrification may well have been the only viable option for them.

Do spare us the American economic nonsense.

I have travelled by Amtrak in several regions of the US. I found the trains interesting, but their standards are stuck in about the 1950s. Design of the carriages is much the same as 1950s, or 1960s trains in Britain. Speed is very moderate - slow. There are no modern high speed lines as can be found in most European countries - and Japan and China. The service, such as it is, omits many towns and cities that in Europe and Britain would expect hourly or more frequent service. And where there is service it often consists of once a day or even less often.

Of course in the 1960s I spent three months in the US and travelled coast to coast by Greyhound. My most recent encounters with Greyhound show a much poorer service. The buses seem to have been made less comfortable, because they are now serving mostly the poorer people.

I have also experienced rail travel in several parts of Africa and Australia. I think the US trains are about at the standards of Morocco - though there they are electrifying rapidly.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby Statkowski » Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:35 am

Can not, will not argue with you concerning Amtrak. It, not unlike British Rail before privatization, is stuck in another century. It has too much government interference to operate without considering political ramifications. BritRail, on the other hand, opened itself up to private operation, for profit, and imaginations went wild.

Would portions of American railroads yield similar results? Unfortunately, we may never know since Amtrak is a government-imposed monopoly and breaking it up might well be politically impossible. Plus, we don't have the population density that other European countries have to support much enhanced passenger service. Out here in Western Pennsylvania the population density is about 125 people per square mile (48 people per square kilometer), which hardly justifies any passenger service.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:09 am

Statkowski wrote:Can not, will not argue with you concerning Amtrak. It, not unlike British Rail before privatization, is stuck in another century. It has too much government interference to operate without considering political ramifications. BritRail, on the other hand, opened itself up to private operation, for profit, and imaginations went wild.

Would portions of American railroads yield similar results? Unfortunately, we may never know since Amtrak is a government-imposed monopoly and breaking it up might well be politically impossible. Plus, we don't have the population density that other European countries have to support much enhanced passenger service. Out here in Western Pennsylvania the population density is about 125 people per square mile (48 people per square kilometer), which hardly justifies any passenger service.

You should concentrate on the engineering, design and investment of the railways, not on the ownership. In the 1950s the general outlook in the US was essentially to abandon rail transport, except for a limited market of long distance industry. The result has been the almost complete decay of the system. That has nothing at all to do with ownership. It was a matter of general policy. I think there will come a period fairly soon when that policy will be reversed and more investment will come in American railways. But no doubt not during the time of the present incumbent.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby kato » Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:43 am

Statkowski wrote:Plus, we don't have the population density that other European countries have to support much enhanced passenger service. Out here in Western Pennsylvania the population density is about 125 people per square mile (48 people per square kilometer), which hardly justifies any passenger service.

For scale, let's take the three counties in the southwest corner (Greene, Fayette, Washington; average density 65 people per square kilometer, and most of that is in Washington County) :

In Europe you'd probably get a line out of Pittsburgh down the Monagahela river valley at hourly or bihourly service at best on existing rail infrastructure picking up from former Pittsburgh Railways service to Roscoe, likely extended to Brownsville. Probably 90 minutes or so to get into downtown Pittsburgh from that terminus. Hourly rail service on a separate still existing route via Canonsburg to Washington, picking up from previous service on that route. At least. In Europe it'd probably be a terminus for a suburban light rail line...
And yes, that means no rail service in Greene County and its 25 people per km², and most of Fayette Founty either. Somewhat regular bus service to the rail termini from Waynesburg and Uniontown respectively though.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:12 pm

Service does vary from country to country. Thus although France has a network of fast trains - TGVs - their local services tend to be rather sparse with often only a few trains a day. But the Netherlands and Belgium have a more or less suburban service everywhere with once an hour or more often. Most lines in Britain have at least once an hour with more frequent in many areas. Germany has very good service on most lines.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby ExCon90 » Mon Aug 07, 2017 2:30 pm

Wouldn't that have a lot to do with population density? I haven't looked up any figures, but I believe France's population density is much lower than that of neighboring countries (and not at all what one associates with western Europe in general). If an area is sparsely populated the ridership won't support a dense frequency regardless of who owns or operates the railway.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Mon Aug 07, 2017 7:39 pm

ExCon90 wrote:Wouldn't that have a lot to do with population density? I haven't looked up any figures, but I believe France's population density is much lower than that of neighboring countries (and not at all what one associates with western Europe in general). If an area is sparsely populated the ridership won't support a dense frequency regardless of who owns or operates the railway.

Yes, density of population has a lot to do with the frequency. But it seems to me a low density, between cities, should favour much higher speeds - as in France. My observation in the US is that they have never favoured high speeds, which would enable service between fairly widely spaced towns.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby kato » Sat Aug 12, 2017 3:53 am

ExCon90 wrote: I haven't looked up any figures, but I believe France's population density is much lower than that of neighboring countries

One-third that of Belgium; half that of Germany, Switzerland or Italy; slightly higher than Spain. In the more densely populated areas in France local services aren't that bad; in the less populated they're... worse. It's not as bad as claimed though, especially since the TER provincial railroad companies were introduced fifteen to twenty years ago (which with more stable services and modern rolling stock also increased passenger numbers by 50-100%).

You can directly contrast that quite nicely by picking out random stations in the countryside:
  • (density of Germany) In Haguenau in Alsace, 35,000 people, 40 km from Strasbourg, you get hourly services plus hourly express services to Strasbourg (i.e. effective a train every 30 minutes) with modern interurban rolling stock.
  • (average density of France) In Epernay in Lorraine, 25,000 people, 30 km from Reims, you get bihourly services to Reims plus occasional medium-distance TER trains stopping there on their way between Metz and Paris.
  • (two-thirds density of France) In Montauban in Occitanie, 60,000 people (!), 50 km from Toulouse, you get bihourly services to Toulouse with some additional trains for commuters (effectively a couple of trains in the morning and a couple in the afternoon with otherwise very sparing service) - but you also get a couple intercitys and even TGVs stopping there pretty irregularly
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Tue Aug 15, 2017 8:45 am

(density of Germany) In Haguenau in Alsace, 35,000 people, 40 km from Strasbourg, you get hourly services plus hourly express services to Strasbourg (i.e. effective a train every 30 minutes) with modern interurban rolling stock.


Germany and Britain have a lot in common. Both countries have a coverage of most of the country with regular and frequent trains. Neither has much in the nature of High Speed lines but the overall speed of the main lines is a lot faster than in the US. Of course in Britain the 125 mph trains travel on speeded up track, which also carries freight.
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Re: Comparing USA Railroads to the rest of the world.

Postby george matthews » Fri Aug 18, 2017 9:25 am


New York's Subway is less of a network than the Underground, and is really quite a different sort of system. Its stations always seem to me rather intimidating. I won't say 'frightening' but I try to be more awake when I am on a train there.

I think it is a pity the tube lines are so narrow. They do work but the larger District and Metropolitan lines are more comfortable, and probably can carry more people per train. When the tube trains are crowded during rush hours they can be very constricted. The original reason for the narrowness of the tube lines was the cost of tunnel building 150 years ago and the smaller demand for travel, so that the crushing crowdedness didn't occur until much later.

Note for those unfamiliar with the tube network:

The tracks are standard and of the same format as the larger loading gauge lines - four rails and the same voltage. The two rails used for electric delivery were made standard when it was thought difficult to use the running rails as a return. Modern electrical engineering would make it possible to power the Underground system with a third rail, but it would cost far too much to alter it, and the savings in operation costs wouldn't justify the change. The latest east-west line will use mainline overhead and high voltage system.
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