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Old April 22nd, 2010, 10:29 AM   #1721
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Quite a few governments actually made money on the bank bailouts. So it turns out that the taxpayer isn't footing that much of the bill after all.
The bank bailout money was not given by the government with profit in mind. It was given in a state of panic when all the banks in the world were on the verge of crashing at once. The private sector was simply unable to continue sustaining those banks; therefore, the government intervened; therefore, taxpayer money was involved. Simple as that.
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Old April 22nd, 2010, 02:47 PM   #1722
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Good point.

The private sector messes up at least as often as "the government".

It wasn't the evil government that brought the world economy to its knees......but it was the gov't (i.e. taxpayers) who bailed out the private sector after it messed up. Again.
Whom do you think it was who decided that every American should be able to own a home and thereby gave FANNIE and FRDDIE the go ahead to create toxic mortgage products in the first place? Hint, NOT the private sector. Yes, the private sector went too far and smart people found a way to make money the way sm,art people always will but don't absolve the Government of blame.
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Old April 22nd, 2010, 03:10 PM   #1723
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That the privatization of rail in Brittain led to an decrease in safety and an increase in crashes is simply not true. The railways in Brittain have been getting safer and safer over the years (as everywhere else) and this process has not been interrupted during the privatisation.
It is irrefutable that safety was compromised after privatisation by privatising the track, the company Railtrack then failed to adhere to its own safety protocol, and the Hatfield Crash highlighted this lax attitude to safety.

But, since Railtrack was deleted, and Network Rail - a non-profit org took over - things have improved to better than they were before privatisation, and no other areas of railway operation seem to have been safety impaired since provatisation at all. I agree it is not fair to say privatisation causes safety concerns and there is no reason to think that it would in the USA, but unfortunately the process in the UK generated one large and particularly sore lapse in safety by one of the private companies that took over, that has since been resolved.
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Old April 22nd, 2010, 05:44 PM   #1724
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It is irrefutable that safety was compromised after privatisation by privatising the track, the company Railtrack then failed to adhere to its own safety protocol, and the Hatfield Crash highlighted this lax attitude to safety.
Before privatisation accidents happened also. In other countries where the railways are still state owned accidents happen too. The simple fact that an accident happens doesn't prove that the system is unsafe. The panic reaction after Hatfield might even have killed more people than Hatfield itself.
The facts are very simple: Expressed in fatalities per million passenger miles the UK railway system is very safe, safer even than that of countries where trains are still largely run by the transportation ministry.
And privatization has not made it less safe.
That is actually an "irrefutable" fact.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 10:47 AM   #1725
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I preffer to travel on a plane than a train.
Probably becouse you havn't been able to taste the railway properly.
It's magnificent to travel at 300 km'h (186 Mph) along a congested motorway....

I prefere to travel by train whenever possible, just for the comfort. And in Europe where we do have a good international rail system, often including HSR it's in most cases faster then any other mode of transport.

Amsterdam to Paris:
Car = 6 to 8 hours, train is little over 3 hours, Plane is over 4 hours due to check-in times and travel up and down to/from the airport.

Cologne to Frankfurt:
Car is aprox 2 hours, Train is 1.15 hours, Plane..... ALL AXED due to High speed rail taking over all demand.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 03:43 PM   #1726
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Before privatisation accidents happened also. In other countries where the railways are still state owned accidents happen too. The simple fact that an accident happens doesn't prove that the system is unsafe. The panic reaction after Hatfield might even have killed more people than Hatfield itself.
The facts are very simple: Expressed in fatalities per million passenger miles the UK railway system is very safe, safer even than that of countries where trains are still largely run by the transportation ministry.
And privatization has not made it less safe.
That is actually an "irrefutable" fact.
I don't refute the safety record and I didn't mean privatisation has made it less safe, as I subsequently highlighted. Railtrack failed to maintain safety standards, not because it was private but because it didn't function properly as an organisation.

As I said there is no reason to suggest private operation of railways will affect safety in the US.
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Old April 24th, 2010, 04:31 AM   #1727
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I'm far more worried about rail systems that depend on public subsidies to operate the rolling stock. It would be ok for the government to maintain the tracks and stations, but no way government should foot be bill for specific train operations, particularly passenger trains.

Usually, where there is heavy road congestion the rail operator would be able to charge higher fares and still be competitive. However, in totalitarian rail services like in The Netherlands, France or Switzerland, it becomes political sensitive to charge passengers different for the same traveled distance, for instance - even if a given route could extract 3x the average km-passenger fare for the same class of service.

Italy is a model in that regard: in 2001 Trenitalia was mandated to drastically reduce its losses and to make a train-based profitability assessment except for regional services (whose level of service and financing would be decided by the regional governments). So massive service cuts on unprofitable (yet popular) routes brought Trenitalia already to the verge or breaking even, something many pundits said it were impossible.

As for the US, there is a growing attitude against money handouts, pork and subsidies everywhere. I don't think it would be politically feasible to establish a massive passenger rail system funded by taxpayers, not by the fare gates. It took 20 years for American railways restore a credible financial position, and I don't think they would be willing to risk it to transport a bunch of money-losing passenger trains whatsoever. Even daily or 3-days-a-week services create stiff between Amtrak and BSNF, for instance, because the Zephyr and other long-distance trains disrupt their cargo operations and require priority.
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Old April 24th, 2010, 04:47 AM   #1728
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There is no profitable passenger transportation system in the US, Amtrak is no odd man out.

Privatization, except for perhaps SOME parts of the NE corridor (with fare hikes to cover costs) would effectively kill passenger rail in the US.
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Old April 24th, 2010, 08:33 AM   #1729
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I'm far more worried about rail systems that depend on public subsidies to operate the rolling stock. It would be ok for the government to maintain the tracks and stations, but no way government should foot be bill for specific train operations, particularly passenger trains.
Just curious, what is your attitude towards governments subsidizing airlines to fly to remote airports, which would otherwise be unprofitable?

At least that process is fair and transparent. When Air Canada was privatized, it was still required to fly to unprofitable and remote communities on its own dime. As someone who frequently flies on the Toronto-Vancouver route on AC, I'm paying for that.
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Old April 25th, 2010, 05:49 PM   #1730
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Just curious, what is your attitude towards governments subsidizing airlines to fly to remote airports, which would otherwise be unprofitable?

At least that process is fair and transparent. When Air Canada was privatized, it was still required to fly to unprofitable and remote communities on its own dime. As someone who frequently flies on the Toronto-Vancouver route on AC, I'm paying for that.
Some circumstances would yield such subsidizes to be in place, but then, I prefer explicit subsiding models that are known, route-specific and politically justifiable. US has a similar scheme too, and they made the cost visible to anyone, instead of embedded in higher uniform fares for everyone.

Then, it is possible to question the justification of each route/service that is subsidized in an otherwise self-sustainable system. However, if you had "hidden" the costs of services and dilute them in uniform fares for the whole system, you start losing control of it.

In The Netherlands, for instance, the national fares are calculated as a function of class (1st/2nd) and distance, with a lot of discount cards for students, off-peak travel etc. So, NS (the national railway) is forbidden to charge (far) more in commute routes where there is already heavy road congestion during peak times, for instance, or to give discounts in routes operated by older stock in less traveled routes etc. It creates an attitude like "everyone wants a rail service" in their town. Even worse, this build an attitude for frequent all-day long rail service, when a lot of routes could do well with services only in the peak times (then 2-hours interval services the rest of the day instead of 30-min interval services as we have now).

However, the kind of strategic necessity that justifies flight for remote locations in passenger transport in North America doesn't exist in Europe. Apart from the islands (where a railway to the continent is just not feasible), and maybe for the northernmost parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland, we don't have any inhabited place that is far and remote enough to justify special rail transport in lieu of road transport.
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Old April 25th, 2010, 07:10 PM   #1731
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There is no profitable passenger transportation system in the US, Amtrak is no odd man out.

Privatization, except for perhaps SOME parts of the NE corridor (with fare hikes to cover costs) would effectively kill passenger rail in the US.
Actually all services on the NE corridor (from regionals to Acela) are very profitable. It is the rest of the network that generates Amtrak's deficits every year.
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Old April 26th, 2010, 12:57 PM   #1732
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Actually all services on the NE corridor (from regionals to Acela) are very profitable. It is the rest of the network that generates Amtrak's deficits every year.
So why not just cut services linking Chicago with Seattle and San Francisco altogether for good, or at least the middle sectors like those in sparsely populated MT, WY, CO, NV? I read that the Sunset Limited, albeit "limited" to New Orleans since Katrina, is still a huge money loser. Why not cut this service in three, one between New Orleans and East Texas, one back in Florida panhandle to Jacksonville, and other regional service and California - and that's it?

I don't understand, financially, this Amtrak obsession with money bleeding multi-day routes. They don't own the tracks there, so there is no case for "maintaining a backbone track network". They are not competitive not even with private cars. They won't be ever attractive enough to BNSF - and spending billions to modernize a track to carry a daily passenger train would be silly anyway.

Why doesn't Amtrak focus on profitable routes, and leave the multi-day routes for private operators - if any - that would like to operate "vintage" service in this non-sense routes?
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Old April 26th, 2010, 03:10 PM   #1733
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So why not just cut services linking Chicago with Seattle and San Francisco altogether for good, or at least the middle sectors like those in sparsely populated MT, WY, CO, NV? I read that the Sunset Limited, albeit "limited" to New Orleans since Katrina, is still a huge money loser. Why not cut this service in three, one between New Orleans and East Texas, one back in Florida panhandle to Jacksonville, and other regional service and California - and that's it?

I don't understand, financially, this Amtrak obsession with money bleeding multi-day routes. They don't own the tracks there, so there is no case for "maintaining a backbone track network". They are not competitive not even with private cars. They won't be ever attractive enough to BNSF - and spending billions to modernize a track to carry a daily passenger train would be silly anyway.

Why doesn't Amtrak focus on profitable routes, and leave the multi-day routes for private operators - if any - that would like to operate "vintage" service in this non-sense routes?
It doesn't receive fair enough funding to upgrade outside the NEC and there are a few profitable lines in the Midwest , West Coast....Private Operates will neglect it even more then the Feds do, we've seen that in Maine.
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Old April 26th, 2010, 03:50 PM   #1734
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Actually all services on the NE corridor (from regionals to Acela) are very profitable. It is the rest of the network that generates Amtrak's deficits every year.
Last time I checked, "does it make a profit?" was completely irrelevant for a road, or a highway, so why is it suddenly the only thing that matters for railways?
Sure, it shouldn't be a drain on the treasury but as long as this isn't the case, isn't it more important that they do what they're supposed to do: provide mobility to the nation?
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Old April 26th, 2010, 08:24 PM   #1735
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So why not just cut services linking Chicago with Seattle and San Francisco altogether for good, or at least the middle sectors like those in sparsely populated MT, WY, CO, NV? I read that the Sunset Limited, albeit "limited" to New Orleans since Katrina, is still a huge money loser. Why not cut this service in three, one between New Orleans and East Texas, one back in Florida panhandle to Jacksonville, and other regional service and California - and that's it?

I don't understand, financially, this Amtrak obsession with money bleeding multi-day routes. They don't own the tracks there, so there is no case for "maintaining a backbone track network". They are not competitive not even with private cars. They won't be ever attractive enough to BNSF - and spending billions to modernize a track to carry a daily passenger train would be silly anyway.

Why doesn't Amtrak focus on profitable routes, and leave the multi-day routes for private operators - if any - that would like to operate "vintage" service in this non-sense routes?
Because Amtrak works on a federal budget, and to gain enough support in the Senate (tiny WY gets the same voice as CA or NY), they need to offer services to these places to get funding. This is probably the biggest argument for privatization. I agree that most of the US doesnt need rail service. However, it could be a real asset in the targeted corridors. There is no doubt that true high speed rail on the coasts (and TX, IL) would help alliviate overcrowded skies. The FAA already subsidizes non profitable air routes so it cannot be argued that a train that goes from Chicago to Seattle is offering a unique transport service.

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Originally Posted by Koen Acacia View Post
Last time I checked, "does it make a profit?" was completely irrelevant for a road, or a highway, so why is it suddenly the only thing that matters for railways?
Sure, it shouldn't be a drain on the treasury but as long as this isn't the case, isn't it more important that they do what they're supposed to do: provide mobility to the nation?
Because it becomes much more appealing if it does turn a profit. Although it is hard to uncover as states repeatly placed more bonds on them, but I'm sure that some of the older toll roads (NJ Turnpike, Masspike, etc) have had a positive ROI and are generating income now.
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Old April 27th, 2010, 04:18 AM   #1736
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Actually all services on the NE corridor (from regionals to Acela) are very profitable. It is the rest of the network that generates Amtrak's deficits every year.
Yeah, that's what I wrote actually. Only the NE corridor would survive privatization, and barely, as inevitable fare hikes due to improvement would probably turn off potential users. For the most part, most other routes on the Amtrak system would not survive.

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So why not just cut services linking Chicago with Seattle and San Francisco altogether for good, or at least the middle sectors like those in sparsely populated MT, WY, CO, NV? I read that the Sunset Limited, albeit "limited" to New Orleans since Katrina, is still a huge money loser. Why not cut this service in three, one between New Orleans and East Texas, one back in Florida panhandle to Jacksonville, and other regional service and California - and that's it?

I don't understand, financially, this Amtrak obsession with money bleeding multi-day routes. They don't own the tracks there, so there is no case for "maintaining a backbone track network". They are not competitive not even with private cars. They won't be ever attractive enough to BNSF - and spending billions to modernize a track to carry a daily passenger train would be silly anyway.

Why doesn't Amtrak focus on profitable routes, and leave the multi-day routes for private operators - if any - that would like to operate "vintage" service in this non-sense routes?
So should we cut funding for highways such as the ones in the Great Plains which barely see any traffic in the middle of nowhere and never turned anything close to a profit? How much non-toll highways in general have turned a profit anyway? How about all those services to small airports that barely see any traffic? And airlines are losing money in general as well. Why stop at trains, if using your argument?

Profitability is very important, but it is not the only variable into question when helping to make a transportation system more efficient.

Last edited by Xusein; April 27th, 2010 at 04:30 AM.
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Old April 27th, 2010, 04:40 AM   #1737
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Yeah, that's what I wrote actually. Only the NE corridor would survive privatization, and barely, as inevitable fare hikes due to improvement would probably turn off potential users. For the most part, most other routes on the Amtrak system would not survive.



So should we cut funding for highways such as the ones in the Great Plains which barely see any traffic in the middle of nowhere and never turned anything close to a profit? How much non-toll highways in general have turned a profit anyway? How about all those services to small airports that barely see any traffic? And airlines are losing money in general as well. Why stop at trains, if using your argument?

Profitability is very important, but it is not the only variable into question when helping to make a transportation system more efficient.
Theres alot of Interstates in really rural areas that only get 200-500 cars and trucks a day......we should cut funding to those. I think a big chunk of our Interstate system outside the densely populated areas is a waste......our US / State highway system was enough. The interstate system killed alot of small towns that depended on the cars passing through for business. I do think a larger rail system can bring some of that back , yes it will take a few decades , but the payback with be for centuries
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Old April 28th, 2010, 06:31 PM   #1738
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Theres alot of Interstates in really rural areas that only get 200-500 cars and trucks a day......we should cut funding to those. I think a big chunk of our Interstate system outside the densely populated areas is a waste......our US / State highway system was enough. The interstate system killed alot of small towns that depended on the cars passing through for business. I do think a larger rail system can bring some of that back , yes it will take a few decades , but the payback with be for centuries
The funny thing is, the very reason everyone here is pushing the HSR is why the interstates were built. It was an upgrade on ground transportation. It was more convenient and faster in many cases than the rail at the time. Plus, it was an economic stimulus effort to get folks working. Same as now, a public works project. It's a big circle since now we have the interstate system and it's become the enemy in favor of rail.

I agree that the interstate system wasn't necessary for many sections but remember who built it. That is a lesson to learn if the Feds are responsible for the funding to build the HSR someday. Where it most needed and would be best utilized will not be the most important factors in it's construction. Which Congressional districts are the strongest within the power structure of the day in Washington will likely outweigh actual need. Back in the day, the Rep. from Western North Dakota likely said, hold on a minute, I need that highway construction funding for my district too, and low and behold I-90 pushed farther west than was ever needed.

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Old April 29th, 2010, 02:06 AM   #1739
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The funny thing is, the very reason everyone here is pushing the HSR is why the interstates were built. It was an upgrade on ground transportation. It was more convenient and faster in many cases than the rail at the time. Plus, it was an economic stimulus effort to get folks working. Same as now, a public works project. It's a big circle since now we have the interstate system and it's become the enemy in favor of rail.
But the Dwight Eisenhower Interstate Highway System was built in a completely different political and fiscal environment. It is estimated it cost US$ 0,9 trillion in 2007 dollars. And it was meant to build on an already existing pattern: increased car ownership and white flight, plus a complete rearrangement of supply chain that interconnect the whole country together with things from preprocessed foods to just-in-time deliveries between a California supplier and a Colorado factory.

The country, however, was not amidst a major crisis like now. So, maybe in 5-6 years construction of a national HSR network could speed up. But I DO think that government should stop short of operating trains itself. Build and maintain the track, and let private operators run the trains. The Interstate System was a road building project, not a bus, truck and/or rental car operation. Same for airport construction.

We don't need an Amtrak-style company running trains themselves. Private companies should do that.
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Old April 29th, 2010, 02:27 AM   #1740
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But the Dwight Eisenhower Interstate Highway System was built in a completely different political and fiscal environment. It is estimated it cost US$ 0,9 trillion in 2007 dollars. And it was meant to build on an already existing pattern: increased car ownership and white flight, plus a complete rearrangement of supply chain that interconnect the whole country together with things from preprocessed foods to just-in-time deliveries between a California supplier and a Colorado factory.

The country, however, was not amidst a major crisis like now. So, maybe in 5-6 years construction of a national HSR network could speed up. But I DO think that government should stop short of operating trains itself. Build and maintain the track, and let private operators run the trains. The Interstate System was a road building project, not a bus, truck and/or rental car operation. Same for airport construction.

We don't need an Amtrak-style company running trains themselves. Private companies should do that.
Amtrak does a good job with the amount they get. Private railways lead to neglectfulness and greed. Look at Maine for a recent example. For some reason you bring up the same arguments every time and every time people debunk them. The trend of Suburbia is slowly ending and Urban Renewal has become popular in most cities. The FRA is slowly dropping its ridiculous weight rules , other then that is there anything to improve? Most Freight companies are planning to overhaul there lines sometime this decade. Why are you so against Rail being run by the Govt? The Airports & Roads are run by the Govt.
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