We Go More Cheaply Across France on High Speed Rail

Feb 25th, 2013 | Posted by

For European travelers – especially Brits – flying cheaply has become a normal way of getting around the continent, with carriers like easyJet and Ryanair providing very low fares by offering no-frills service connecting smaller airports. In France, offering low-cost travel has been a priority for SNCF since the TGV opened in 1981, as tickets have been subsidized so that high speed trains become the dominant form of intercity travel.

With new right-wing EU rules requiring high speed tracks to be opened up to competition in service, SNCF is offering a completely new type of TGV service to try and capture some of the ultra-low-cost market. As Yonah Freemark explains at The Transport Politic:

SNCF has now extended the principle further with the introduction of its OuiGo* service this week. Attempting to spur more train ridership, particularly among car owners living in the eastern suburbs of Paris, OuiGo will offer 300 km/h TGV speed at very low prices, starting at €10 for journeys between the Paris region and the Mediterranean coast (Montpellier and Marseille, via Lyon), a trip of about 500 miles (10% of overall tickets will be as low as that, with the rest increasing to a maximum of €85). SNCF claims that these ticket prices are the lowest available in the world for high-speed trains. Current TGV tickets start at €19 for similar journeys, but generally are above €50. OuiGo tickets will always be cheaper than equivalent TGV tickets on similar journeys.

OuiGo brings the aviation low-cost concept to high-speed railways. In exchange for a cheap ticket, customers will be charged for a second carry-on bag; they’ll pay more for the use of an electrical outlet; they’ll be unable to change their tickets without a fee. There will be fewer conductors — only four per train, who will also be tasked with some maintenance. Double-decker trains will seat 1,268 passengers, not because seats have been compressed (unlike the airlines, thank god), but rather because the first class and dining car spaces have been replaced by economy-class areas. Trains themselves will be scheduled to run more often than typical TGVs, traveling about 80,000 kilometers per month, double the normal rate….

Like Ryanair, Europe’s foremost low-cost airline, OuiGo will not serve the more convenient passenger terminals where most TGVs board and alight. Rather, the Paris region stop will be located 20 km east of the city in Marne La Vallée (the location of Disneyland Paris); Lyon’s, instead of being in the center of the city, will be out at the St. Exupéry airport. One major reason for this service pattern is that the public agency that owns the tracks (RFF) charges SNCF (also a public agency) more for the use of tracks and stations in center city areas than those in the suburbs. Labor represents for only about 20% of TGV operations costs, while track fees, which are becoming increasingly onerous (they will be augmented by €200 million in 2013 alone) and which pay for maintenance and upgrades, account for a large potion of expenditures.

This is still something of an experiment, with just four trains devoted to the OuiGo service so far. If it succeeds, then one would assume more OuiGo trains would be put into service.

Overall it’s an interesting if slightly troubling model. The goal appears to be to make high speed rail travel even more affordable not by raising subsidies for tickets or by increasing the incomes of the potential riders, but by slashing costs. I suppose that first class is no great loss, though a dining car is one of the pleasures that makes rail travel civilized and more enjoyable than the cattle cars that pass for airplanes. But what struck me was the idea that you’d have only a small handful of conductors who also do some maintenance. That’s a recipe for exhausted and overworked staff who would be more prone to making mistakes. But then, for most economic elites these days, workers are to be brutally exploited and tossed aside when burnt out, rather than treated fairly and paid well.

As austerity begins to hit across the European continent, including in France, cut-rate options for rail travel will become more of a norm. That’s despite the fact that austerity is hugely unpopular, as the recent Italian elections showed, as well as economically ruinous, as Britain’s sorry state shows.

Austerity has hit the US as well, first at the state and local level beginning in 2008-09, and now at the federal level, with this week’s idiotic sequester cuts being just the latest example. Eventually the self-destructive mania of austerity will fade, but even when that happens, I suspect there will still be pressure to be frugal in operating new infrastructure.

Which brings me to my point. Will California high speed rail service resemble the classic TGV, or will it more closely resemble OuiGo? A wide variety of factors will go into determining service levels and fares for California’s bullet trains, including debt service, private profit goals, ridership, and public demand for various amenities. I could see a California HSR service that is somewhere in between, with a dining car and a business class section but where coach cars have cheap fares but high fees for things like checked baggage, use of WiFi and the electric outlet, and so on.

We’re still quite a few years out from having to make these decisions. But those decisions ought to be political choices. The purpose of building a high speed rail system in California is not to turn a profit, but to encourage people to travel in a comfortable and convenient way that also reduces carbon emissions. Under the current version of Prop 1A government cannot subsidize the operation of the bullet trains. That’s unfortunate, and suggests that a service like OuiGo is worth paying close attention to as it may be in California’s future.

To be clear, OuiGo isn’t awful. It’d still be worth the trip, would still be a far better choice than driving, and would probably be more comfortable than flying. It would do well in California. But I can’t help but wish that quality of the experience and getting as many people as possible to ride the trains were the top priority, rather than saving money. We will see how this all plays out.

  1. swing hanger
    Feb 25th, 2013 at 19:40
    #1

    JR Central uses 3 conductors for their Nozomi and Hikari services (capacity 1323 passengers/16 car train). For the all-stops Kodama, each 16 car train has two conductors.

    William Reply:

    Fare gates, that’s the question. Japanese, and most of the conductors on Asian HSR lines, do not need to handle ticketing on-board the train, and at most check if everyone has a valid ticket to board the train.

    TomW Reply:

    Fare gate saren’t required. Toronto has no fare gates for it coimmuter trains, which crary ~2000 people each and one conductor. They use proof-of-payment (i.e. random rather than systmatic fare checks).

    UK trains will have a guard (=”conductor”) + food person on inter-city trains (upto 600 people), or guard only on most other trains. Not all UK stations have gates (though they are getting more common)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    When I rode the iDTGV, nobody checked my ticket on the train; instead, people checked it at the station near the car door. If you’ve been to Penn Station, it’s like the checks done at the station, except that there are multiple points of entry (maybe 1 per car even, I forget) rather than 1 for the entire train. I would imagine that with the TGV’s long nonstop travel distances, it’s cheaper to do ticket checks at stations by station staff rather than on board.

  2. Ant6n
    Feb 25th, 2013 at 20:37
    #2

    These trains won’t stop often, so the few conductors should have plenty of time to check the tickets.

    I disagree with your notion that this is a bad profit-seeking enterprise that exists at the detriment of the public. I think that having more market segments served by rail is good, and having more affordable options for people to travel is good, too.

    Here in North America, speed increases on the NEC and the Quebec-Windsor corridor are tied to higher and higher prices, as if they are only competing for business travellers with air travel, and the general public is pushed to either driving or taking the bus. I think both Amtrak and VIA should look into finding ways to have cheaper, high capacity alternatives, which may be a bit less convenient in order not to cut into their premium markets (i.e. slower service, fewer amenities, maybe a bit less space, non-main station departures/arrivals, online tickets only).

  3. Alon Levy
    Feb 25th, 2013 at 20:58
    #3

    Rising real incomes always and everywhere mean producing the same output with fewer inputs (labor, scarce urban trackage space, capital, etc.). If you use those inputs more efficiently economy-wide, that’s increasing everyone’s real income. If you don’t, well, you’re just getting Soviet-style stagnation, in which one person’s income gain is another’s loss.

    Cheap fares aren’t really austerity, either. On the contrary – austerity plans often lead to higher fares as a substitute for government subsidy. An austerity plan is one where the government makes people poorer by raising interest rates, raising taxes, or cutting spending. It’s not “Everything that the unions disagree with.”

    Ted Judah Reply:

    A simpler way to approach this is:

    should non TGV riders pay for the TGV system’s cost, or should only riders pay? Austerity tends to increase the latter, which is at odds with the ability of government to spread risk across various groups.

    A bigger issue for SNCF is deregulation of the tracks themselves. If the majority of Euro Disney passengers can ride DB or TrenItalia all the way, that puts much more pressure on SNCF to wring more profits out of less lucrative lines.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    Huh?

    In France it is the TGV that pays for some inefficient forms of train transport (mainly freight and TER, intra-regional train), although its profitability is on a downward slope with the soaring fees of RFF, the infrastucture owner.

    Now, regarding OUIGO, the low-cost TGV, it will be, alas, a success.

    I say alas because until now, as I’ve been saying quite a few times in this blog, TGV was some sort of miracle ; comfortable, fast, uplifting, reasonably cheap.

    Of course the future lies in a much more stressful way of travelling, but, yes, cheaper. We French people being prob. one of the stingiest people in the world, with our bean-counting mentality, will no doubt embrace the low-cost TGV, as we have embraced low-cost clothes, low-cost equipment, low-cost cars and now low-cost food (gagg), and I don’t even mean McDo, which is now considered “luxury fast-food” here.

    Why bother? Well, look at croissants ; when I was a young boy, you’d go to the boulangerie, buy one or two croissants, and more often than not you’d be in heaven…The cheapest absolute luxury, available to even the poorest families.
    Then the time for mediocrity came, and you have now to ride to another town get the precious real thing ; not worth the effort.

    If Ouigo is a success, it will more or less become the norm, and taking the “real” TGV will be, as a corollary, too expensive or impractical.

    I Hope California will never fall in this trap.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Salut, Eric

    I guess I better be thankful my visits to la belle France were in ’70 and ’75. Practically l’ancien regime. The baguettes were fabulous – you could pull them apart like Armenian string cheese. Nere in Norcal it is the Vietnamese emigres who know how to do baguettes parisiens.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Flunked on that one. Try “baguettes parisiennes”.

    Not much excuse here – for a couple of years I have been trying to absorb Latin – wherein everything has to agree in gender, number and case. No declensions in the derivative romance languages.

    ericmarseille Reply:

    Hi Synonymouse,

    Don’t worry your french is still very good. BTW it is still possible (for how long?) to choose a boulangerie with good baguettes, but good croissants…Scarce.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Deplorable but the same obtains here. The San Francisco bakeries are narrowing down to just a few with what I like, almond strudels with the fine fillo pastry or really quality danishes.

    Anybody remember the Scandia Bakery on Powell St.? Fabulous danishes.

    I’m having fun discovering that the verb “aller” contains 3 Latin verbs, ambulare, vadere, and ire. How did that happen?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The verb “to go” contains 2 Germanic verbs – go, and wend (whence “went”; “go” doesn’t have a past tense form of its own).

    And “to be” contains 4 Indo-European verbs: be, is/am, was/were, are. At least in Latin they only have the first two (“be” is cognate to “fui”/”futurus”) and in French only 3 (those two plus Latin “sedere”).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    One can still wend in English….

    jimsf Reply:

    ericmarseille you have broken my heart.

  4. ks
    Feb 25th, 2013 at 22:37
    #4

    I will kill time in the dining car if the trip is longer than 3 hours. For an HSR trip (<4 hours), I guess not having a dining car is alright…

  5. Reedman
    Feb 25th, 2013 at 23:10
    #5

    Can CAHSR compete with airlines between San Jose and LA for the business traveller?

    Can CAHSR compete with the auto for the travelling family?

    These are the two big questions.

    joe Reply:

    It’s not even st patty’s day, economy is pretty crap, no fuel formual switch over AFAIK.
    It was $4.35 a gallon in MTView.

    April 2012 AAA wrote:
    “The average costs rose 1.1 cents per mile to 59.6 cents per mile, or $8,946 per year, based upon 15,000 miles of annual driving.”

    In 2020, I bet cost of ownership & gasoline is going to make that car trip quite the bargain.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s not how much American households are spending on transportation. They’re spending a bit less, around $6,000. Most people don’t drive the way the AAA recommends, i.e. buy a new car and sell it after 5 years and keep it as maintained as the AAA would like.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I haven’t seen a article about it in a long time. I forget which it is: you can buy a 2 year old car every four years or a four year old car every two years or buy a new car every 20. If you want to save money you buy used. Driving a new car from the dealer’s lot across the curb costs thousands of dollars. You don’t even have to drive it across the curb. Once title changes it’s “used”

    Nathanael Reply:

    CAHSR will be cheaper than both autos and airplanes once gas prices go up a bit more. Meanwhile, it will be more comfortable.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The answer to “the two big questions” is no. But the politicians in charge of the CHSRA are disinterested and/or bored with hsr. The concept has become a catechism, an airhead crusade.

    The failed DMV computer system lays out the path forward.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So instead we should put people in charge who brought us the successes in Iraq and Afghanistan?

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is same in-crowd. Halliburton and PB two peas in the same crony, house pod.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Really, really not. Heck, even Halliburton isn’t one group of people — the really nasty group is Kellogg Brown Root, who brought us the bales of cash being thrown off trucks in Iraq.

    Neville Snark Reply:

    c’mon, mouse, you don’t mean ‘disinterested’, you mean ‘uninterested’.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    His usage is fine; your correction is wrong. Your punishment for being a grammar Nazi is to look up uninterested vs. disinterested in any modern usage guide. Oxford and Webster are good; in fact, you should check out both.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I see the point – the pols are somewhat vested in that important deep-pocket political allies(labor unions and contractors, for instance)expect support on what is a money issue to them. But they are stone ignoramuses as far as any grasp of what Brown, Richard, Villa and company are really up to. A total snafu right up there with the DMV computer contract.

    But the truth is that the bureaucracy at all levels is more and more writing its own budget and threatening to go on effective strike if it is not accorded regular increases, let along any cuts or trimming. The upshot can only be regular and sizeable tax increases for all strata of society, not just the rich.

    Italy, Spain, Greece – California’s future is right there to be seen. We’ve already got a start in the direction of the Mezzogiorno with LA probably the most corrupt city in the US. Rizzo and Noguez are just fall guys.

    synonymouse Reply:

    let alone, not along

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    whining about how gubbermint workers aren’t going to allow staffing to be cut is so 2006. You do realize that the amount of government workers has been drifting down for years and if staffing was at the same levels it was in 2008 the unemployment rate would be a percentage point lower.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Just to preempt someone claiming that there are more government workers than before, the increase is almost entirely in the military and the Department of Homeland Security. Meanwhile, the actually-useful agencies are losing staff.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The stuff I see includes state and local government workers. Enough that a unemployment would be a full percentage point lower if those jobs were filled. Lay off three teachers and they are then out competing for jobs as cashiers at the big box store….. Census bureau estimates it saved 20 billion in labor costs because it was able to hire many more experienced workers in 2010 than is usual because unemployment was so high.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If the departments are allowed to expand their budgets without oversight or constitutional control by the legislative & branches eventually there will be confrontation and a reset. Ergo Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers.

    synonymouse Reply:

    legislative and executive branches

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers is now, 30 years later causing a crisis in air traffic control. The replacements are all ready to start collecting pensions all at the same time.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What’s the point of busting a union if the replacement workers still get defined-benefit pension? I thought the people who do union-busting do it to save money, not to just show that they can.

    joe Reply:

    FAA pensions are paid out of an entirely different pot of money then the FAA budget.

    If the FAA eliminated every pensioner with a synonymouse hit squad – FAA wouldn’t see a cent in savings.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They do it to show they can.

    What’s wrong with defined benefit pensions? They figured out the actuarial tables a long time ago. The main problem with them is that people who are responsible for funding them don’t like to so they don’t.
    For instance New Jersey’s recent problems with the public pension fund was a gift from Christie Whitman. The state was going to sell bonds and pay the interest on the bonds instead of funding the pension plan. They’d take the proceeds from the bonds and invest it in the stock market since the Dow was going to be over 30,000 by 2010. If for any other reason they’d have to invest their money someplace since the Federal debt was going to be paid off in 2011 or 2012. No more stashing cash in T-bills….

    StevieB Reply:

    For a business traveler it would depend on where you start and end your trip. The airports are not convenient to all the travelers who use them. Major airports by design are not located in business districts. Los Angeles International Airport is certainly not convenient if you live in the San Fernando Valley. California High Speed Rail has the advantage of stations in the San Fernando Valley and on the Peninsula probably in Redwood City which will offer alternatives to the business traveler.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    One advantage of the personal car, is that you can leave when you want. As I understand it, travel by train will be similar to airline travel, in the sense that one must buy a ticket for a specific time slot a week in advance, leave home in plenty of time so that one doesn’t miss the train, then hang around the station for an hour or two. Next-train-out service will only be available to those willing and able to pay much higher fares. It looks like only local transit, like BART or MUNI, offers next-train-out service for a standard fare.
    For most people, planning to travel a couple hundred miles a week in advance, and knowing exactly when you’ll leave a week in advance, and organizing your trip around train reservations you made a week before, is going to be a hard sell. For most people, paying premium fares for convenience they already get with their cars is going to be a hard sell. And if central valley air is going to be breathable again some day, those ‘most people’ have to stop driving so much.

    swing hanger Reply:

    I have bought a ticket for the shinkansen just 10 or 15 minutes before departure time numerous times from a TVM- whether I can get a reserved seat depends on the time of day/day of the week etc.- there are always non-reserved seat tickets available otherwise. No need to wait, just be at the platform 30 seconds before the train arrives (the waiting rooms in shinkansen stations are almost always empty). There are are plenty of trains, so it’s basically a show up and go service, at least on the Tokaido Shinkansen- likely CAHSR will not have such frequencies at first. Also, the shinkansen doesn’t use airline style pricing- there is no penalty for buying late, though there are few discount offers.

    joe Reply:

    Peter

    For most people, planning to travel a couple hundred miles a week in advance, and knowing exactly when you’ll leave a week in advance, and organizing your trip around train reservations you made a week before, is going to be a hard sell.

    You apparently do not like RESERVATIONS. I do. When you spontaneously drive to some city hundreds of miles, having a hotel room waiting is quite welcome. That requires planning.

  6. EJ
    Feb 25th, 2013 at 23:56
    #6

    tickets have been subsidized so that high speed trains become the dominant form of intercity travel. Now that can’t be right – I thought HSR always made an operating profit. You need to keep your bullshit straight.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It is wrong, but that’s the norm for Robert, who has previously expressed his great love for uniquely subsidized fares for CAHSR and waste and corruption in the building process. It’s not about building and operating a world class means of transportation you see, but of stroking socialist egos and feelings of self-righteousness.

    Derek Reply:

    Advocates of a single form of transportation don’t want equality with other forms. They want superiority. Find me a bicycling advocate who supports road user fees not just for motorists but also for bicyclists.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Just make the road user fees cover the costs of the road system properly, and the question of subsidy for rails goes away. It also has the advantage of allowing the road system to be properly maintained, and built, if traffic justifies it.

    That’s nothing like what we’ve had for 80 or so years now.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What externality, construction cost, or what have you is a user fee for bicycles supposed to cover?

    Derek Reply:

    Bike lanes require road space, and that costs money.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Street space is not congestion-taxed.

    joe Reply:

    Really Paul, HSR is socialism for all.

    It must be better to spend that tax money subsidizing oil companies and airlines.

    You can stand next to the guy in the medicare provided scooter and yell about keeping the government out of medicare.

    The free ride for cars is over. Not only is gasoline ever expensive but automobiles are expensive and fuel economy gains plateauing. We also pay for those technology gains with tax dollars subsidizing automobile efficiency and battery power.

    Our state cannot afford to maintain the car subsidy which runs into the hundreds of billions over the coming decades. People cannot afford nor desire to spend 8+ grand a year on a car and they know damn well the roads and car centric infrastructure is “subsidized”.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    How many carbon offsets did you need to buy to counter the strawmen you burnt?

    joe Reply:

    Is it 42? I give up. I have one for you, how many Communists can you fit in the Harvard Law School?

    Anyhow, you can yell “socialism” at the gas pump next time you fill up.

    William Reply:

    No, making a profit shouldn’t be the highest priority, frequent, convenient service should be the priority.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    There is a difference between “frequent, convenient service” and “balls out insane frequencies.” One of these is profitable, the other is the CAHSRA plan.

    William Reply:

    Now that’s a subject for debate, but you cannot say CAHSRA’s plan is insane.

    For example, one can say that design for 2025 capacity is enough and save on infrastructure fix costs, and worry about post-2025 later.
    Another can say we should design for 2050 to get the most expensive parts done early.

    I bet plenty of reasons can be found to support each scenarios.

    Joey Reply:

    Name a city pair outside of Japan which currently has HSR frequencies in excess of 4tph.

    jimsf Reply:

    When the system first opens, ( not the half ass’d fresno palmdale metroling nonsense – but the real phase one one seat san francisco tbt to laus high speed system) they could start with one train per houron the hour in each direction. then if those sell out, 2 tph each direction. eventually one departing from each end every 15 minutes. That should be more than enough for the foreseeable future. That would allow for one full express sf-la first/business only train on the hour, a “limited” sf-sj-fno-la on the half hour, and two local all stops on the :15 and :45.

    Joey Reply:

    Exactly. Which is why the Authority’s planned 8-9 tph SF-LA is a complete waste of resources.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    How many trains an hour does it take to get from needing one track to needing two tracks? Two is what they are suggesting for most of the system.

    Joey Reply:

    The question is how many tph it takes to get from two tracks to three or four. In areas like the Peninsula, this is a serious question which will cost a lot of money if answered wrong.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It will cost a lot more if they build two and the answer is four. Since the people who were there for building two will remember it they may never allow building it. At least not until they and their children are all dead.

    joe Reply:

    OMG the Brooklyn Bridge was designed to be 6 times stronger than needed OMG!! Was this all waste!!

    “Roebling designed a bridge and truss system that was six times as strong as he thought it needed to be. Because of this, the Brooklyn Bridge is still standing when many of the bridges built around the same time have vanished into history and been replaced.”

    I know of no way to predict the future to the precisions Joey demands. No method exists.

    I do know the area continues to grow and undersizing the capacity now would be far more expensive to correct than investing in ROW for the NEXT 150 years. This is 150 year old ROW that we’re worried about oversizing for 2029 forgetting there is a 2059.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There is such a thing as structural tolerances. Not so much capacity tolerance.

    Joe Reply:

    We cannot precisely predict into 2029 let alone 2050+.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    “Joe” can’t predict 2012.

    jimsf Reply:

    I wouldn’t waste any time worrying about the authority’s so called plans for tph. That’s just a projection for possible future demand. Of course they aren’t going to do that on opening day but the system design needs to tak into account the next 100 years as the state’s population will unfortunately exceed 50 or 60 million. Also if you take 4 trains per hour on the SF-LA line plus one or two trains per hour SF-SAC and a couple of shorter or longer runs like fresno-sf or sf-sd, then you suddenly you need to have that capacity available.

    But for the initial high speed sf-la only line, Id bet they will will do 3 departures per hour. one every twenty minutes. perhaps one express, one limited, one local per hour. That gives sf and la 3 tph, san jose and fresno maybe 2 tph, and the other stops 1 tph in each direction. a very reasonable starting sked. If it proves to be a hit, which it no doubt will, trains will be added as needed all the way up to a total of 8 or 9 per hour into the terminals, 25 years from now.

    Joey Reply:

    See my response to adirondacker above. I’m worried about it because it could result in serious overbuilding. We can only hope that the next phase of the blended plan analysis (which was due summer of last year) produces good results.

    jimsf Reply:

    nothing will be overbuilt initially, but right of way needs to be preserved for expansion. The decision has already been made to use a step by step approach, beginning with the blended approach. Its unfortunate that we are not getting a full, true high speed system from scratch, but step by step makes some sense. ( Id like to ride a real hsr before im 80)

    Joey Reply:

    Interesting. The last time I checked they were planning miles of Viaduct from Tamien to Santa Clara, even under the blended plan.

    joe Reply:

    “Miles” of viaduct. Like BART ?

    So you advocate using the UP ROW from Gilroy instead or is this just an escalating cycle of OMG OMG OMG they haven’t produced a credible train schedule for 2029 service?

    Joey Reply:

    joe, subtilties. CalTrain owns all the ROW to “Lick” (about where the corridor turns onto the Monterey Highway). The viaduct is both unnecessary and will be an inconvenience for passengers (having to change levels at least twice to transfer to CalTrain at San Jose). The best solution is probably three tracks on the current ROW between Tamien and San Jose (two for CalTrain/HSR, one for UP and Amtrak). Between San Jose and Santa Clara, there’s room for as many tracks as you want at-grade (probably up to six, though needing this many is unlikely), that is, assuming that you don’t consider CEOMF to be sacrosanct.

    Mike Jones Reply:

    If they run 3 “fast” trains an hour between LA and SF, with walk up and go fares, they will create demand. Demand isn’t inherent you make it. Equally a “stopping” train is serving a different market. Central Valley to LA may itself justify 3 trains an hour.

    Joey Reply:

    No offense, but is there any reason to believe that you are pulling this “3tph LA-CV” anywhere but out of thin air? Is there any analysis or precedent to support this?

    jimsf Reply:

    Joey. They are going to run however many trains the need, as they need them. simple as that. stop worrying about it. They are not going to open the system on day one running 100 trains a day in each direction.

    When bart was being built it common knowledge that they “planed” to run trains every 90 seconds, at speeds up to 90 miles per hour. I specifically remember this.

    What the started with in reality was one line with trains running every 20 minutes.
    Even today, off peak they run trains at 15 to 20 minute headways on outer lines.
    with soemthing like 65 trains total on the system at peak…40 years later.

    Stop worrying about it.

    Joey Reply:

    I’ll stop worrying about it when I see sane construction plans.

    jimsf Reply:

    just because they are building something for future growth doesn’t mean they are going to run excess trains for no reason on it in the meantime.

    joe Reply:

    “I’ll stop worrying about it when I see sane construction plans.”

    Why not apply for a senior position at the HSRA ?

    Mike Jones Reply:

    In the UK the HSR plan is for 3 tph to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. But, as I said, demand is not just there you have to make it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Seoul-Daejeon. Beijing-Tianjin, by an enormous margin: there are 5 peak tph doing just Beijing-Tianjin, in addition to many more continuing south from Tianjin. Beijing-Shanghai has 6 tph some hours.

    Joey Reply:

    Point. I should really extend that to East Asia. But none of that changes the fact that it will take a very long time to justify anything above 4 tph in California, let alone the insane frequencies that the CHRSA is proposing from day one.

    StevieB Reply:

    The Beijing-Tianjin ticket revenues are covering costs including debt. The Irish Times glowingly reports China gets its rail network up to speed

    According to a report late last year, four of the country’s high-speed rail lines achieved break-even since the bullet trains started running full-speed, intercity services – with ticket revenues matching costs, including debt payments – on several routes, including Beijing to Tianjin, Shanghai to Nanjing, Beijing to Shanghai and Shanghai to Hangzhou lines.

  7. Jo
    Feb 26th, 2013 at 10:34
    #7

    The way that I see it, many European countries already have two types of passenger train service, HSR and lower speed/lower accommodation service. This lower speed speed/lower accommodation service is already less expensive than HSR. Quigo may be nothing more than an attempt – an experiment to replace this lower speed/lower accommodation service with Quigo type service. Give the French some credit for trying something and thinking out of the box.

    As for me, I would always pick HSR first. But if I had to pick between lower speed/lower accommodation and Quigo type service, I would pick Quigo. As for driving, flying or the bus – forget it.

  8. jimsf
    Feb 26th, 2013 at 11:00
    #8

    Before everyone starts (too late) with the usual ideological arguments… and here’s a pic of the new livery for ouigo

    take a breath and stop basing what will happen with chsr, based on what others do. the fact is once this system is built and ready for operation, there are no restrictions on how it can be run.
    There seems to be an inability of the ideology-bound posters on this blog to think outside their boxes.

    Service levels, frequencies, classes of service, fares, and everything else, can be provided and adjusted and expirimented with over time.

    There is nothing set in stone that says

    you can or can’t have multiple classes/fares/amenities on a single trainset.
    you can or can’t divide services/classes/amenities offered by departure.

    everyone seems to want to – by putting the cart way before the high speed horse- pigeonhole the system’s service into a predetermined form.

    you can have some trainsets configured in an all first and business form. with full express service offered at prime departure times to attract the crowd that will use and appreciate such service,

    You can can all coach trains with basic amenities configured for local, and off peak travel featuring low excursion, and advanced purchase discount fares, family deals and so forth. (ouigo)

    You can the semi express trainsets configured with a combination of first/business/coach for other departures.

    Then you can adjust according to demand year by year.

    Its not rocket science its common sense.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Agree, and you can have multiple operators if you want, paying rent for track usage.

    jimsf Reply:

    I think there will be a single operator at first. Eventually followed by a model where the state owns the track, and operator for cali, and trackage rights for something like xwest to offer direct service. much like in europe now where the different operators are expanding service over other countries’ lines.

    EJ Reply:

    Well so long as they don’t go the UK route, where they chopped up the rail network into franchises, ie subsidized monopolies – so you’ve got no real competition, massive corporate profits, and high fares. There are a couple of open access operators, but the deck is stacked against them. Real open access operation like the EU is rolling out has potential, where you force the operators to actually compete, but I have to wonder if the average passenger wouldn’t prefer a simpler “any ticket, any train” system.

    The one saving grace in the UK is that DB Regio seems to be gradually absorbing the whole system, and there are worse fates than having the Germans run your trains. (seriously, DB, take Amtrak, please)

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I think eventually HSR operators will merge with the airlines and form a sort of double monopoly on short haul travel. Basically four major airlines will get monopolistic control of flights from four regions of the US that would compete or buttress HSR routes. Then they would operate HSR from those cities as well, and own the track.

    In return, however, there would be deregulation between the four regions, and thus, it still be fairly cheap to travel because you would eliminate redundancy and foster competition where it is still possible.

    I think this model makes sense because the airlines already can’t really handle full on deregulation, and unlike Europe, American geography will probably yield about four major HSR networks that won’t link up necessarily. Anchor those networks to a major air hub like Atlanta, Chicago, or Newark though, and voila…

    Andre L. Reply:

    No, please, don’t EVER let a bureaucrat get near air flight scheduling. More liberalization of air market is needed, for instance, by auctioning off on rolling 3-year periods (or even 24 months) slots at airports that are overcapacity (notoriously those around NYC), instead of grandfathering those airlines already operating there.

    jimsf Reply:

    it my be easier to fly from sf to vegas for instance, but for valley residents , have a direct train from merced-fresno-tulare-bakersfiled to vegas, would be much appreciated. its a thankless drive, and an expensive inconvient flight otherwise.

    Jo Reply:

    Keep in mind though that one of the actual goals of Xpress West is for HST service from San Francisco to Las Vegas in about 5 hours give or take. Institute some type of Quigo service, and given the ridiculous thought of driving to Vegas from SF, and the terrible hassle of flying to Vegas, it is within the realm of possibility. It would also bring in nice fees for track usage to CAHSTA.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Judging by how it currently works for electricity, my guess is that the track is always kept in public hands but the service won’t be. Instead, look for Amtrak California to continue to run money losing routes that feed, into HSR, and look for airlines to start operating HSR service to feed into their regional and domestic service.

  9. jimsf
    Feb 26th, 2013 at 11:48
    #9

    hew ad campaign. Can’t wait for the day when we start seeing these ads in california.

    Jo Reply:

    Totally agree, and nice ad.

    Jo Reply:

    I can invision an ad like this for CAHSR. But trying to invision a similar ad touting the same conveniences for an airline is pretty difficult.

    EJ Reply:

    Yeah, in 2 decades. I mean, we could throw a couple $billion into modernizing the surf line and the capitol corridor, trains that actually exist and people use, and have perfectly respectable 110+ mph trains connecting major california metro areas with less than 90 minute trip times, within 5 years, but that would involve a lot of accountability. Better to throw a few million at the existing rail network here and there where it looks like a 100 year old bridge might actually fall into the ocean and make the politicians look bad, and meanwhile spend the real money on viaducts to nowhere in the central valley.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The CC is owned by a railroad that has no intention of letting passenger trains cruise at 110, to say nothing of adhering to a schedule.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    The State Rail Plan expects the first trains between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the Coast Corridor to take 12 hours in 2015. Later they will reduce that, first to 10 hours and then 8 hours.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The State Rail Plan mentions that it can’t be completed as long as Union Pacific is making unreasonable and extortionistic demands for additional trains in the Coast Corridor. (For example, UP is demanding improvements south of San Luis Obispo, where no additional trains will run, in order to add trains north of San Luis Obsipo. You can decide whether UP is merely trying to extort money or is actually trying to sabotage the project — but those are the only possibilities.)

    If the state of California decides it really wants to improve the Coast Corridor, it can always work with Amtrak to seize the Coast Corridor from UP by eminent domain. Until they do that, I won’t believe that we’ll see meaningful improvements there.

    Nathanael Reply:

    (UP has developed a reputation for this particular type of obstructionism. CN has developed a reputation for a different but similar type of obstructionism. By way of contrast, NS and BNSF seem to be approaching things from a different perspective; BNSF asks gold-plated prices but they give gold-plated results, and NS is actively pushing to convince states to take over the lines it runs on and make it a tenant.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Tenants don’t pay property taxes….

    synonymouse Reply:

    Airspace does not require maintenance. No hollow-core stilts to check nor rails to re-align or grind.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Airports require maintenance. And almost none of them pay property taxes. The Caltrain ROW at full build out will use around 700 acres. SFO uses 2,383. None of those 2,383 pays property taxes. How much is 2,383 acres of land worth on the Peninsula?

    synonymouse Reply:

    And does the Caltrain ROW serve, let us say, Khrungthep?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Both of the people in San Bruno who went there last year took a cab to SFO. And they could have taken a cab to Oakland if the flight was leaving from there.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Why is the state spending $24million on track and signal improvements on the coast corridor?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Because there are people who deeply appreciate being on the receiving end of $24 million to dig holes and fill them back in and repeat.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    In a couple of years I will be riding the Coast Daylight one of the most magnificent railways in the world

    Joey Reply:

    If you consider traveling at bicycle speed to be magnificent, then sure.

    EJ Reply:

    Well in 2 decades when CAHSR finally gets finished I hope to be retired, so at that point the Coast Daylight would suit me fine.

    John Burrows Reply:

    A 1938 SP timetable shows 2 Morning Daylights—One leaving San Francisco at 8:15 AM and arriving in LA at 6:00 PM.—The other leaving LA at 8:15 AM and arriving in SF at 6:00, for a total trip time of 9hr 45min.

    So at some undetermined time in the future, and after spending a large but undetermined amount of money, we could get back to where we were 75 years ago.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Yes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The same railroad that is allowing passenger trains to run at 111 in Illinois.

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-10-19/news/chi-test-run-amtrak-passenger-train-to-hit-110-mph-20121019_1_test-train-high-speed-passenger-rail-passenger-coaches

    Paul Druce Reply:

    An Illinois congressman managed to get that inserted as a legal requirement during one of UP’s mergers (I believe with SP).

  10. jimsf
    Feb 26th, 2013 at 19:52
    #10

    Ot but this looks really good california state of mind legacy of pat brown

    VBobier Reply:

    Jim, Yer link is busted…

    jimsf Reply:

    patbrown

    VBobier Reply:

    Very nice, so that’s what Governor Pat Brown looked like.

  11. Andrew
    Feb 27th, 2013 at 11:11
    #11

    This service seems likely to fail. There are only a few trains a day, and the Paris end of the line is at Marne-la-Vallée (Disneyland), in the eastern suburbs of Paris. Ouigo does not serve CDG Airport or Lille; there are numerous existing (more expensive) trains which run from Lille to southern France on the same bypass east of Paris (stopping at CDG Airport and Marne-la-Vallée), but CDG Airport is a major transfer point for air travellers and Lille has connections to Eurostar and Thalys trains to London/Brussels/Amsterdam/Cologne. The only people who want to go to Marne-la-Vallée are Disneyland tourists and people who live in the eastern suburbs of Paris; otherwise, it is a fairly long RER ride to Paris city centre. Only one train a day serves Lyon city centre, the other trains stop at the underused Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airport TGV station east of Lyon, which is a regional airport with few flights outside Europe, and which is connected to Lyon city centre only by an outrageously expensive “airport express” tram line. Furthermore, the regular TGV service serving Paris city centre and CDG Airport/Lille is not that expensive if you book in advance, and is usually cheaper than Ryanair (which has awful service) which this Ouigo service seems to be trying to imitate.

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