High Speed Rail Update

I took the Eurostar high-speed train from London to Paris and back today.  It was cool going from London to Paris in 2 hours, particularly when I am not one of the taxpayers who get socked with the subsidies.  A couple of thoughts:

1.  The investment for true high speed rail is simply staggering.  The dedicated track, the complete elimination of all grade crossings, the fences, the terminal facilities (St Pancras had a beautiful but obviously pricey makeover, for example), the trains -- its hard to even imagine the cost, and one quickly becomes convinced high speed rail advocates are either sandbagging the cost or not really talking about true high speed rail.

2.  This moring, my son and I were the only passengers in our car!  Even on Friday afternoon, the busiest time (everyone is coming back home for the weekend), a third of the seats were empty.  I am not sure this thing could make a go of it at 100% capacity but surely it is taking a batch at this utilization.


  1. Ian Random:

    Wait, I thought in Europe everyone took mass transit. Maybe that's why they need 6 weeks off every year, just to get across town.

  2. Chris Yeh:

    The enthusiasm for rail boggles the mind. For 1/10th the cost, we could provide free service with gold-plated, solar-powered buses with WiFi and complimentary mimosas.

    Oh wait, I forgot, no environmentalist wants to ride a bus.

  3. Allen:

    Gotta love that 18th century technology!

  4. rxc:

    It could be that the trains were not full because you were not traveling during a peak period. The Brit holiday period is later in the summer, while the French holiday period started last weekend, with the hoardes heading south. I doubt many vacation in Britain, though.

    We are heading up to Brussels from Bordeaux next week, and the fare comparison was" TGV - 450 euros/2 people, Air France/Ryanair - 550 euros, driving - 200 euros for diesel and tolls, and parking. We are driving to Brussels. We will have a car available to explore parts of Belgium that would be inaccessable/inconvenient by public transport, and we will be meeting 2 friends there so the car will be very useful. The hoardes of French and Germans and Dutch and Belgians who are heading south, many with their camping trailers in tow, feel the same way - a car us much cheaper and more useful than public transport when you don't want to be constrained.

  5. Max:

    @Iand: Nope, in Europe most people use cars, but politicians want them to use trains and light rail. Even heavily subsidized train passenger service costs are higher than a journey with your car and a friend. Only if you drive your car on your own is there a comparative advantage in taking the subsidized train system. Of course, taking a train in the first class can be cool experience since you can get stuff done while you ride a distance of several hundred km.

    What would interest me would be the costs of rail construction compared to the costs of high way construction, because honestly highways have been build entirely with government subsidies in Europe.

    @Chris: Indeed that is still possible, but actually I don't like busses much though they are much cheaper, they are also a hell of a lot crampier.

    @rxc: Right said. But hey, government and even do-gooders and my dad say that trains are necessary and a good thing. I suspect my dad only mentions this because he hopes more people will opt for a train so he has less congestion to deal with on the road ;)

  6. George:

    It has long been established that the main difference between Europe and the USA is NOT on the use of cars, but on how trains are used compared to airplanes. In Europe there is more use of trains for long-distance travel while in the USA airplanes are the mode most people use. Since inter-city travel in both areas is mostly by car (80+%), the difference between air and rail inter-city travel is only about 6%.