Posting in Technology
A new study shows that countries around the world have plans to invest in high-speed rail networks in the coming years.
According to a new study by the Worldwatch Institute, the number of countries using high-speed rail is expected to jump from 14, today, to 24, in 2014. Global interest has spiked as high-speed rail has proven to be a reliable, efficient, and fast way of connecting disparate regions. Security concerns related to air travel have also affected consumers' willingness to fly.
Additionally, train travel is a much more environmentally friendly option than travel by car or plane. According to a 2006 study by the Center for Neighborhood Technologies, high-speed rail lines released between 30 and 70 grams of CO2 per passenger-kilometer. Cars released 150 grams, and planes, 170 grams.
"The rise in HSR has been very rapid," said Michael Renner, the Worldwatch Senior Researcher who conducted the research. "In just three years, between January 2008 and January 2011, the operational fleet grew from 1,737 high-speed trainsets worldwide to 2,517. Two-thirds of this fleet is found in just five countries: France, China, Japan, Germany, and Spain. By 2014, the global fleet is expected to total more than 3,700 units."
Currently, the countries making the most use of high-speed rail (ranked by length of track) are China, Japan, Spain, France, and Germany. Turkey, Italy, Portugal, and the U.S. plan to develop rail systems spanning more than 1,000 km in length. Another 15 countries intend to create shorter rail networks.
High-speed rail has proved successful in countries like France, where 62 percent of rail travel occurs on high-speed rail lines, and Japan, where high-speed rail enjoys a 75 percent market share on routes where both high-speed rail and air travel are available.
Photo: Dubut Arthur/Flickr
Nov 8, 2011
There was supposed to be a US Highway fund paid for with revenue from several taxes including gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. The problem is that our politicians changed the funding rules so those vehicle user taxes go into the general fund. At that point Congress can allocate the funds to almost anything they wish. If left in their original funding format they would provide more than enough money to prevent the crumbling highway infrastructure problems in the US. Instead much of the money goes to provide medical benefits for illegal aliens and a host of other wasteful spending intended to buy votes from certain voting blocks.
With countries such as Greec, Italy, and the United States about to go bankrupt, along with states such as California, to fantasize about spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a needless high-speed rail system is just that... fantasy.
Face it, Acela is a flop. At its best it is only 20 minutes faster on the Boston to NY City run that the diesel electric Northeast Regional. It is still over an hour slower than the 1930s vintage steam train that ran the Boston to NY City route into the 1950s. I wish some one in the HSR fan club could tell me how a steam engine was faster than a billion dollar train. I already know why, but until the fan club members understand why they will never understand the reasons HSR in the US as envisioned by the Obama administration and others is a joke. 12 stops in just 200 miles in California for their proposed HSR is laughable in its stupidity.
...I figured it would be a bit longer before we'd start seeing these stories pop up here again. Alas, I was wrong. And as usual, the myths about HSR are perpetuated here. Foremost among them is the myth that HSR is carbon competitive with traditional travel. It is not, when the carbon emissions related to the construction and maintenance of the system are counted. (HSR systems are finely tuned systems that require a magnitude more in terms of maintenance than traditional rail does) Also, consider that in China, most of the electricity that makes their trains go comes from coal-fired powerplants, which emit mass amounts of mercury as well as CO2. "Security concerns related to air travel have also affected consumers willingness to fly." Of course. It's so much nicer walking directly into and through a train station and onth a train unmolested by government agents than through today's airports. But again, exactly how much longer is that going to be the case? It's only a matter of time before something happens that pushes governments to make train travel as uncomfortable as plane travel. Personally, I love travelling by HSR when in Europe. It's so much more comfortable than travelling by plane. But when I do so, it's with the knowledge that it's highly subsidized by European taxpayers with a much lower standard of living than mine.
In countries like Greece, Italy, and Brazil, large infrastructure projects are funded differently than they are in the United States. Despite the financial crisis in Greece, infrastructure proposals are popping up like crazy. The only thing delaying them is bureaucratic red tape (which is a big problem in Brazil, Italy, and Greece). Much of the funds for infrastructure projects in these countries comes from quasi-governmental investment banks, that receive a return for their investment, such as the European Investment Bank, and Brazil's Economic and Development Bank. Projects may also be partly funded by private capital. By contrast, projects in the United States are not funded from dedicated sustainable funds, but rather have to compete with [massive] military spending as well as social welfare (social security, medicare, etc) from a general taxpayers' pool. And infrastructure projects are not chosen based on their worthiness by an independent investment bank that does cost-analysis, but are rather chosen for political reasons. For example, an HSR line from Boston to Washington -even though it would be a highly worthy project, with returns on investment- is shunned because of pressure on Congress from the oil lobbies. Americans aren't so smart for shunning high-speed rail. The US economy is heavily dependent on military Keynesianism, which chest-thumping conservatives would never do without.
John, I'm suspicious of how you are making enough money to have a higher standard of living than the average European. Are you a consultant for the fossil fuel industry? Once we have your allegiance sorted out, I would really like to know what specific myth is being perpetuated here. The electricity from those coal fired plants is being taken into account when CO2 emissions are counted. My suspicion is that if there is a skewing of the numbers, it comes from assuming that the trains will be 90% full on average, which has not been the case for the Amtrak Acela on the east coast due to the relative affordability and convenience of personal automobiles. To make rail travel truly attractive to consumers, the price of gas will have to increase and the rail network will need to be built out nationwide in a manner similar to Philadelphia's already existing regional rail network. As gas prices will inevitably rise above the purchasing power of more than half of all American's transportation budgets, we desperately need to find the political will to build a more sustainable transportation system. What do you propose? I look forward to hearing your response.
It would be nice to blame our woes on "military Keynesianism", but even counting the cost of our poorly executed military adventures, our military Keynesianism is barely noticeable next to the costs of our social welfare state and unfunded liabilities pension liabilities. What we've spent on Iraq alone would barely cover what California's ill-fated LA-SF train will ultimately cost to run.
...even if you are living at the poverty line in America, you are still enjoying a higher standard of living than the average European is.
...it's difficult to take you too seriously. No, I don't work for the fossil fuel industry. If I have any allegiance, it's to solutions that are free of politicians (who clearly do have allegiances) picking winners and losers for me. As for the CO2 myth: Part of the beauty of the CO2 argument is that it's practically possible to make nearly any argument you wish by merely cherry-picking your data. My sources of choice for this are: www.freakonomics.com/2009/07/24/high-speed-rail-and-co2/ webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/researchtech/research/newline/carbonimpact.pdf/ The latter was sponsored by the British government; people who know something of HSR, and are hardly known for their free market radicalism. And you're right about fantasy load factors. The only rail in the world that is truly carbon-competitive is in Japan; where they literally pack people in like sardines. I doubt people here will find that any more desirable than they do even the worst of airlines. I do agree that as long as gasoline remains relatively inexpensive, there is little need to build this. But consider this: Europeans pay twice what we do for gasoline, and yet that doesn't stop auto and air travel to continually increase in relationship to rail travel.
I've seen how the wealthy live, and how the very poor live both here an abroad. And the facts remain that as a whole, the vast majority of Americans enjoy a much higher standard of living by most economic metrics. How we measure "poverty" in this country is a joke.
That's completely false (do you ever travel?) Europe is an entire continent of over 40 countries, from wealthy Luxembourg to poor Moldova. The standard of living in the 27 European Union member-countries is comparable to the US. In the UN's HDI rankings, almost all EU countries consistently rank in the "very high HDI" category, along with the United States. The US's ranking fluctuates year to year, but it also consistently remains within that top category.
Yes, HSR and its cousins can be run via alternative sources. But then again, for the time being they are not, and will likely not be for the foreseeable future. Also, note that one of the most carbon efficient modes was the lowly diesel-powered bus. Even gasoline-powered personal autos were competitive. Alternate technology personal automobiles would be more efficient in comparison when they become more viable.
So I followed the link for your 'proof' that highspeed rail has higher CO2 emissions than traditional transportation methods. In the methodology section of the report, they state plainly that because of the scope of the report, they cannot look at CO2 reductions based on the transport energy source or propulsion type, and instead use average CO2/energy cost in order to make an apples to apples comparison. Thus, the report does say that, for instance, HST, MagLev and Air have about the same energy requirements, and if we were using averaged fungible fuel sources, they would have comparable CO2 emissions. The flaw in this is that Air travel requires combustion engines - direct CO2 emissions - whereas HST or MagLev rely on electriciy, which can be generated via zero carbon methods. So while you can argue that the two have similar ENERGY requirements, it is entirely possible for HST and MagLev to be carbon netural. You can accuse me of 'cherrypicking' by comparing renewably generated, zero carbon energy sources for HST vs jet fuel for air travel. However, the fact is Air travel can't claim carbon neutrality until their onboard power source and/or propulsion system changes. Meanwhile, HST can. Thus, it is NOT a myth that rail has lower carbon emissions than air travel.