Why can't the US build basic rail?

Devdas

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
5,006
India
I was quite surprised that rail transport in US didn't switch to electrified track to control pollution and cost cost. Unlike their European counterpart.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,349
Sydney
the locomotives are often diesel-electric , the diesel power a generator
I suppose it's because of the fragmented ownership of the rail lines , most of the traffic is freight
not having an electric grid is a great saving both in installation , maintenance and operation
electric power is used for commuter traffic , in the US that would be the suburban lines

locomotives don't have to be changed to conform to whatever requirements apply on one line ,
diesel work everywhere
it also make it more economical for the manufacturers to have some "universal" type

the above is just a supposition , here is some ( pro electric )discussion on the subject
Electrification of U.S. Railways: Pie in the Sky, or Realistic Goal? | Article | EESI.
and an anti electric one
http://energyskeptic.com/2016/electrification-of-freight-rail/
 
Last edited:

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,740
San Antonio, Tx
If it is true that train services would "walk all over Airlines", why don't private companies build high-speed railways?
Because there is no need for it. Here in Texas, there is a proposal to connect Houston - San Antonio - Austin - Dallas/FW with a “closed” high-speed rail line. I can see the usefulness of this idea, except that the metro areas of everyone of these cities is enormous because our cities are not dense as in Europe or China and people here are not clamoring for greater density. They like their ranch houses (LOL) sitting on a 70’W plot of land - could be more, could be less.. So who knows?
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,349
Sydney
the initial investment , maintenance cost and public contacts are way more involved , as was written above US rail is very happy handling freight and suburbia commuting

for distance of less than 500 km trains have an advantage for longer distance not so much
the US Amtrack is the proof of the difficulties
 

Devdas

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
5,006
India
what about high speed rail in United States, it seems China despite having smaller per capita income than US has the largest network of high speed rail in the world.
 

fascinating

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,415
what about high speed rail in United States, it seems China despite having smaller per capita income than US has the largest network of high speed rail in the world.
If there was the political will, USA could have a high speed rail network bigger than China's, but that would necessitate raising taxes to pay for the vast cost of building and running (invetibly at a loss) the system. In China, the government was able to decide to implement its decision for high speed rail, at considerable cost to the economy. There is certainly more justification for building high speed rail in China than in USA, because the population is much more dense; imagine a population of the USA 3 times its current size, all living in the land East of the Mississippi. With such a high density, that means a lot more customers.
 
Nov 2019
186
United States
The primary reason is that they lose money. This despite taking outrageously high amounts of money for free from the taxpayers. I've read analyses that shows that there are no such things as profitable rail lines anywhere in the world despite the bleatings of some that there are. It's easy to see why, the cost of rail and it's maintenance is high, competition for long distance travel with airlines, repeatedly shows airlines are more financially profitable (which by the way means that the airlines will improve their product and services, and reduce the overall cost for the consumer, in comparison, rail travel rarely sees qualitative improvement in any of those factors and operates with relatively antiquated equipment).

The first attribute to understand is that agencies like Amtrack don't even own the rail they travel on, they are "renting time" on commercial rail lines, and that transportation of products, raw and finished, are the ONLY place where the railroad companies make any money.

Amtrack itself has NEVER made money, ever. Nearly 50% of the cost of a ticket is subsidized by taxpayers.
 
Nov 2019
186
United States
Comparing the needs of other nations to the US in terms of traffic on rails is a fools errand, the comparison fails because of how the US functions across it's gigantic mass of land, and how the citizens of this country use their transportation. We don't shop in centralized local scenarios. We don't tend to live in highly tightly constrained urban areas, and we aren't inclined to want to change that.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,349
Sydney
rail is at an advantage for suburbia commuting
close-intercity is way cheaper and more flexible by coaches
above 500 km air travel is cheaper too ,
 
Nov 2019
186
United States
I was quite surprised that rail transport in US didn't switch to electrified track to control pollution and cost cost. Unlike their European counterpart.
Electric is actually much more expensive than fossil fuel energy, especially here in the United States. The reason is fairly simple, you have to produce the energy in the first place, and most electrical energy in the US is produced by fossil fuels. The next greatest source of energy in the US is Nuclear Power. At best "Green Energy" produces less than 6% of actual energy, and that fluctuates based on conditions of the climate, because of that fluctuation, you have to back up that 6% with other forms (normally fossil fuel sources) of energy.

Producing and transmitting that electrical energy, and then transmitting it over literally 100,000's of miles of rail, means loss of energy, normally 5% loss overall but greater the longer the transmission line is. Meanwhile fossil fuels are easily transported, and contain more energy per molecule than electrical energy, also the energy produced by that molecule is relatively constant, where as load variances change the relative energy of electrically transmitted energy.
 
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