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Old February 4th, 2010, 08:52 AM   #121
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Originally Posted by Suburbanist View Post
Competitors coordinated schedules amount to oligopoly power. I'm for-profit as much as I'm for competition, the kind that kills companies here and there and brings stifly cost controls and price wars, ultimately bringing benefit to costumers.
Are you for the free market on principle, is it for you a dogma? Or are you for the free market becuase it creates most value?

In case of the former, discussion with you would appear to be pointless. If it is the latter I would like to point out to you that externalities are a reality. And that because of this letting things to the free market sometimes does lead to suboptimal solutions.
It is possible to have a debate whether or not the medicine proposed against market failures is worse than the disease or not, but acting as if the free market somehow magically always comes up with the perfect solution just displays ingorance. Even Milton Friedman aknowledged that market failures exist.

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Coordinating trains from different competitors with the goal of making reasonably possible to live without a car is a lock-in strategy contraty to free market principles ...
Trying to produce a product of the highest possible value is not contrary to free market principles. It is sometimes not possible under a pure free market.
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Old February 4th, 2010, 08:56 AM   #122
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Another side-effect: If you establish short-term bidding cycles for pathes, you take long- and even middle-term planning security from all companies.
This is basically the biggest single flaw in the way the railways in the UK are currently operated. The Franchises are to short. SBB was asked if they were interested in running one of the UK franchises. Their answer was that they were, but only if they got the franchise for at least 25 years.
If you want compenies to engage in long term planning you must give them a long term perspective...
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Old February 4th, 2010, 09:00 AM   #123
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Rolling stock is surely expensive, but is also very interchangeable, like aircrafts.
If it only were so. Maybe in 50 years' time, when the third generation of TSI compliant stock hits the rails, but not at the moment.
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Old February 4th, 2010, 05:07 PM   #124
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In case of the former, discussion with you would appear to be pointless. If it is the latter I would like to point out to you that externalities are a reality. And that because of this letting things to the free market sometimes does lead to suboptimal solutions.
Exactly, I remember that the concept of "externalities" is even covered in Econ 101
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 04:54 PM   #126
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Maybe its not related but US biofuel and corn subsidies have created all sorts of schemes where companies find ways of cheating the system or taking advantage of price arbitrage by shipping fuel out of the country or blending it, etc.

Whatever. I am curious, in Europe do some medium distance "intercity" lines in places like the Benelux or south England function more as de-facto long range commuter rail systems?

It's surprising that so many small towns could be served by branch lines with modern rolling stock running frequently throughout the day, and these rail networks manage to have operational profits and tens of millions of yearly passengers too. In any other part of the world you'd be lucky to catch a bus in these kinds of places.

Last edited by zaphod; December 3rd, 2012 at 06:56 PM.
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 06:13 PM   #127
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Whatever. I am curious, in Europe do some medium distance "intercity" lines in places like the Benelux or south England function more as de-facto long range commuter rail systems?
Yes. For example you can commute from as far as Manchester and get to London before 8am (and a further 5 trains will get you to London before 9am).

In fact all long distance services have heavy commuter patronage pretty much anywhere in the UK.

The whole network from Southampton, along the south coast, up the east coast to Ipswich, and then across to Cambridge, Peterborough, Northampton, Birmingham, Oxford and Reading, is basically built around commuters. And the few faster long distance routes allow commuting from further afield.
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 11:35 PM   #128
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Regarding this whole price management thing... I can somewhat acknowledge Suburby's dislike of inefficient business; for most of us, we want high speed rail to be something for the masses--laws of business be damned.

To be honest though, I think we can find a compromise in maintaining general friendliness to travel and maximizing fiscal efficiency. These aren't always mutually exclusive.


For these seven pages of arguments, I'm surprised that no one has brought up Taiwan High Speed Rail into the picture. It is still considered a private enterprise (with major stockholdings and a degree of control by the government), but generally it is what Suburbanist wants--a private operator that has to balance profit with ridership. Most of the people I know (including my parents), feel HSR is a tad expensive, but that doesn't stop ridership from growing.

THSR offers "early bird" price discounts and travel passes, which cater exactly to the needs of frequent travelers and the financially conscious. They also sell unreserved (standing) tickets in the last 3-4 coaches of the train, and believe me, there is no issue with safety. For people willing to pay a premium, the business travelers, you say, instead of hiking prices up, the trains have a business class car that has power outlets and other goodies. Business travelers use this for two reasons; 1) economy seats usually sell out at peak hours, with people jamming into the unreserved cars, and 2)the company they work for usually covers their travelling costs.

What is completely fascinating about THSR is the diversity of the ridership population and the effects the service has on the country. Students who went to school in another city found it WAY easier to commute, those employed in the north but had family in the south could now see their family on a daily basis (instead of weekly); it is now possible to complete a tourist ring around the entire island in one day (start in Taipei, go down to Kaosiung for lunch, go to the beach, and be back at in Taipei at night).

High speed rail is a new concept in Taiwan and is still somewhat regarded as a luxury, so many people don't really care about whether you're standing or sitting (especially if you're doing a 20-minute commute). Even more, the pricing may seem cheap for foreigners, but when compared to the average person in Taiwan makes (and how much they expect to pay for food and travel expenses), an HSR ticket already has a hefty pricetag.

In this case, Suburbanist, THSR has to fight VERY hard to keep its place, and so far, it's held out pretty well. Domestic air traffic has been completely eliminated (90m compared to 30m+checkin at half the price), and freeway congestion has abated. The main competition THSR now faces is the rival railway company, the government-run TRA, which continues to attract riders due to its substantial lower cost, and the automobile. Given that Taiwan is very, very small, the service is directly competing with the automobile and the commuter train--speed is its only advantage, and the only reason it was built was because the other infrastructure were already saturated. Lastly, since passengers already feel themselves to be buying premium in order to attract riders, ticket prices must remain low. Must.

So, in the terms of this discussion, this is what THSR does to stay afloat:

- Monthly Passes
- Early-Bird Discount (tickets purchased over a month in advance)
- Off-peak discount (defunct)
- Unreserved Seating
- Business Class Tickets

A last-minute ticket hike will murder sales because a majority of the riders purchase tickets at the station, less than 10 minutes before departure. Taiwan's freeways clog up regularly during holidays (It once took 10 hours to travel around 170km) and taking the TRA often means riding in a spam can (very unpleasant if you're riding for more than an hour); these factors are not immediately apparent, and most people will quickly transition to high speed rail as a fast and comfortable alternative.
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 11:59 PM   #129
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Originally Posted by Silver Swordsman View Post
The main competition THSR now faces is the rival railway company, the government-run TRA, which continues to attract riders due to its substantial lower cost, and the automobile. Given that Taiwan is very, very small, the service is directly competing with the automobile and the commuter train--speed is its only advantage, and the only reason it was built was because the other infrastructure were already saturated. Lastly, since passengers already feel themselves to be buying premium in order to attract riders, ticket prices must remain low. Must.

So, in the terms of this discussion, this is what THSR does to stay afloat:

- Monthly Passes
- Early-Bird Discount (tickets purchased over a month in advance)
- Off-peak discount (defunct)
- Unreserved Seating
- Business Class Tickets

A last-minute ticket hike will murder sales because a majority of the riders purchase tickets at the station, less than 10 minutes before departure. Taiwan's freeways clog up regularly during holidays (It once took 10 hours to travel around 170km) and taking the TRA often means riding in a spam can (very unpleasant if you're riding for more than an hour);
Also observe the station frequency.

Between Taibei and Xinchu, THSR has 2 intermediate stations in 66 km: Banqiao 7 km from Taibei, and Taoyuan 36 km from Taibei.

Western Rail Line connects the same points in 78 km, and has 17 intermediate stations.

How convenient and important is TRA as feeder line/last mile to THSR?
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Old December 4th, 2012, 01:10 AM   #130
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Also observe the station frequency.

Between Taibei and Xinchu, THSR has 2 intermediate stations in 66 km: Banqiao 7 km from Taibei, and Taoyuan 36 km from Taibei.

Western Rail Line connects the same points in 78 km, and has 17 intermediate stations.

How convenient and important is TRA as feeder line/last mile to THSR?

THSR stations are built outside the city centers to encourage urban sprawl; Hsinchu Station is actually on the outskirts of Jhubei; same goes for Taoyuan, so yes, TRA feeder lines are VERY crucial. I lived roughly 10 minutes (walking distance) from a feeder station; and that was the only reason why I found the THSR convenient. Since the feeder line is a link between downtown, the suburbs, and the HSR station, being in the suburbs means having a fast connection with the TRA station AND the HSR station--this makes it incredibly convenient for my mother (who prefers the TRA due to cost and the fact that she is not pressed for time), to arrive home without any need for pickup. The TRA kinda realizes it's pointless to fight long distance (Like between Taipei and Tainan/Chiayi), although they manage to stay in competition by slashing fares and increasing punctuality. (Before THSR opened, TRA had a notorieity for being late, now, trains usually arrive within a minute or two.
During off-peak, THSR usually runs 3 trains per hour in one direction, making a total of 6 per hour in both directions; amounting to around a 20 minute wait between trains.

During rush hour (5-6pm), train frequency is bumped up to 5 per direction, with certain trains leaving as close as 6 minutes apart.

TRA has a substantially higher frequency, running 5 trains per direction per hour off-peak, bumped up to 6 during rush hour on the trunk line. For the feeder lines such as Liujia (between Hsinchu HSR and Hsinchu downtown), the timetables are constant; 3 shuttle trips per hour.

I guess Taiwan has a lucky perk regarding its passenger services; you have two monopolic rail enterprises that constantly square off with each other. Monopolic operations allows maximum efficiency, while the competition drives up the quality like nothing else.

Suburbanist, are you happy?
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Old December 4th, 2012, 02:04 AM   #131
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Whatever. I am curious, in Europe do some medium distance "intercity" lines in places like the Benelux or south England function more as de-facto long range commuter rail systems?
In countries that have well developed network of HSR I encountered few long range commuters (up to 200km) In Central and Eastern Europe very few people commute beyond the range of 100km, but range 50-70km is quite common and depending on location long range services might be preferred.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 06:53 AM   #132
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Whatever. I am curious, in Europe do some medium distance "intercity" lines in places like the Benelux or south England function more as de-facto long range commuter rail systems?
Many commuter systems in the US and elsewhere are larger (in extent) than many European countries. Belgium is anyway just a large city.
For example: Cityrail in Australia has a length of about 2000 km, that is comparable to the Belgian, Dutch and Swiss Railways. Telarah is 200km, and 3 1/2 hours from Sydney, and still has an hourly service. Travel 200km north from Brussels and you're almost in Amsterdam... So basically what you see is that in densily populated Europe the commuter rail systems of different centres overlap, to form one system. You can consider the whole "Blue Banana" as one big urban area with multiple centres and a dense, well functioning mass transit system.
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Old December 4th, 2012, 08:59 PM   #133
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3½ hours is beyond commuting.
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Old December 7th, 2012, 06:03 PM   #134
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Originally Posted by Silver Swordsman View Post
During off-peak, THSR usually runs 3 trains per hour in one direction, making a total of 6 per hour in both directions; amounting to around a 20 minute wait between trains.

During rush hour (5-6pm), train frequency is bumped up to 5 per direction, with certain trains leaving as close as 6 minutes apart.
The trains are leaving 6 minutes apart all the day!

From Taibei, there is 1 express train leaving each xx:30 from 07:30 till 21:30, and 2 milk trains leaving each xx:00 from 07:00 till 21:00 and xx:36 from 7:36 till 21:36.

On peak hours, an express train is added at xx:54 and a milk train at xx:18.
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Old December 7th, 2012, 07:17 PM   #135
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...with certain trains leaving as close as 6 minutes apart.
6 minutes is not that close. If they were running them at 1 minute intervals, now that would be impressive...
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Old December 7th, 2012, 11:54 PM   #136
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Every 6' @ that speed is nonetheless cutting it close ... @ 1/' would be madness ...
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Old December 8th, 2012, 10:58 AM   #137
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Every 6' @ that speed is nonetheless cutting it close ... @ 1/' would be madness ...
The minimum headway on French LGVs equipped with TVM430 is 3'. So the French would not consider 6' "cutting it close" at that speed...
With ETCS you can reduce the headways to 2'. The Swiss do that, but at the moment only at 200kph. However, it should be possible at 320 kph too...
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Old December 8th, 2012, 11:34 PM   #138
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The French which, eh? Eliminating the margin of error shall probably proove to bite no matter whomever really HARD in the ass.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 09:59 AM   #139
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The French which, eh? Eliminating the margin of error shall probably proove to bite no matter whomever really HARD in the ass.
What margin of error are they eliminating?
The safety record of the French TGV is excellent. The Japanese seem to have no problem with 3' headways either. So why would 6' be "cutting it close"... It's rather conservative in fact.
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Old December 9th, 2012, 12:06 PM   #140
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The French which, eh? Eliminating the margin of error shall probably proove to bite no matter whomever really HARD in the ass.
Separating trains by time went out of fashion in the mid 19th century - it is the wrong way to think about safety and caused accidents. All modern signalling systems separate trains by distance - ie stopping distance + margin. The time separation that results is irrelevant to the safety of the train as that has already been guaranteed by the distance separation.
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