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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tackling the Headlines 22




Take: While it'll be quite sad to see him go assuming that President Obama wins a second term, the Transportation Secretary is to be commended for his role in getting high speed rail off the ground and for standing up to anti-train politicians in recent months. The executive branch should find a person who is just as committed to advancing rail travel in America.

Windy City choke point's days numbered
A big step was recently taken as ground was broken on a major component of the CREATE project. The Englewood Flyover will make things easier for Amtrak, METRA and Norfolk Southern trains to navigate a part of Chicago that once had its own suburban station.


Take: Anything that will end congestion gets big thumbs up from me. And to think that some politicians are oblivious to something that will benefit everyone.

Private operator running trains in France
The country that brought us the TGV will now see a private operator run a train on its tracks. Thello will run an overnight route between Paris and Venice with a stop in Milan. Passengers can transfer to Trenitalia trains once they are in Milan or Venice. The booking is done over the phone or online, and passengers can give their reservation numbers on the train.

Take: Even though the European Union has mandated the the national railroads open up their routes to competition, France is known as a country that has proudly embraced public ownership of SNCF. As far as ticketless travel goes, it seems that Thello is the rail equivalent of Megabus or one of the so-called "Chinatown buses." In any case, the whole thing is quite interesting.



Speaking of competition among European rail carriers, the national carriers are essentially the hurdles to anything meaningful. The author brought up the paradox of national carriers developing new services in other countries but not allow other companies--public or private--from setting up new services in their home countries. Due to the endless conflicts, a regulator group has been set up by the regulators of 15 EU member states. It is hoped that things will make it easier for private companies to run rail routes on the continent.

Take: The sooner that the EU can tell the national companies to cut out the silliness, the better. Furthermore, the fact that DB is the only company that has taken advantage of the EU's original intent of providing international services defeats the purpose of providing competition. If other agencies would mix domestic and international services, then, the EU mandate would work.

Canadian study
A study released Monday reveals that the Quebec City-Toronto portion of a corridor that is extended to Windsor not being viable for high speed service. To no one's surprise, Windsor politicians are up in arms over their region being considered financially infeasible. The kicker is that they provided their own solution in which the corridor is extended to Chicago. 

Take: The only country that has it worse than America on HSR is Canada. The X factor is the Prime Minister, who has remained silent on the report. Nobody seems to know what PM Harper has to say on train travel in general let alone high speed rail. At least the Windsor politicians are more forward thinking than their leader although, I'd like to see a Eurostar-like arrangement in the event that we once again have a Quebec City-Chicago corridor in which there's a joint operator running the trains.

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