Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 07:51:46 AM EST
We all know what high speed trains are. And most of us know the difference between real high speed and fake high speed. Let's skip that and get right to what they're for and why an advanced country needs them.
High speed trains are a replacement for airports. And by every measure that matters, they are a superior replacement for airports.
HST aren't tied to fossil fuels. They're more spacious, more convenient, more enjoyable, more reliable. They use up a small fraction of the land of an airport (from terminal to terminal) while moving several times more people. And to top it all off, they're cheaper than flying.
If a pair of cities is well-served by airplane routes and they're less than 700 km apart, it's past time to upgrade them to a high speed line. That's what they're for. So when a country like England decides to expand an airport and not build any high speed lines, you know they're ideologically against trains, but anyways.
In terms of the combined train+air market share, any train route under one hour in length will be completely dominated by trains. At 2 hours, market share will be 60-70%. At 3 hours, 40-50%.
[imagine a graph of the S-curve here]
For the purposes of improving the nation's economy, its environmental profile, and also help support the national train company thus enabling the construction of new lines, countries should forbid flights between pairs of cities connected in under 3 hours.