America Led the Way With High Class Rail…

…up until about 1955.

Now though, France smokes our efforts by orders of magnitude, while we clunk around in our slow poorly coordinated cars and roadways. Very sad, very pathetic.

“In 2007, SNCF generated profits of €1.1 billion (approximately US$1.75 billion or £875 million) driven largely by higher margins on the TGV network.”

If Amtrak was managed anywhere near SNCF and a measly $40-60 billion were put into the system (outside of the north east corridor, it can handle its own) the system could easily haul in this kind of profit!  Yeah, I said profit, NOT revenue, PROFIT!

Ugh. I could scream until the end of time, but I sadly concede that the US is pretty much finished when it comes to world class transport. Unless we get some real leadership and the market gets involved again, we’ve aligned ourselves to be relegated to third world transportation status.

Two references:

In addition we’re so close minded to our history, we won’t even allow (err, well, most politicians won’t – especially the Democrats) bidding to build out rail service!  What the…?


  1. I agree with you that it is really mind-boggling that we are stuck with third-rate rail service.

    On the profit issue, the public has been hit over the head with the “passenger rail can’t make money” line so many times by Amtrak that it has become gospel as a way of upholding the status quo. Also, True Believers (AKA, Amtrak supporters like Trains Magazine and NARP) tend to ignore reports like SNCF’s that foreign train companies DO make money.

    Even though SNCF and JR Central of Japan drew up better plans to run train service in 2009, True Believers have largely failed to show any kind of leadership as they have continued to support Amtrak. I believe that Congress has to pass new laws that mandate competition because the current laws still tilt heavily toward preserving the current monopoly. There’s a group ( that wants to challenge Amtrak when it comes to bidding on routes, and they should be encouraged rather than ignored by these advocacy groups.


    1. You hit the nail on the head.

      Japan has even setup privatization around the rail system to decrease the cost to the taxpayer. Even SNCF they’ve tried to privatize so there is no more threat to the taxpayer. Right now, there isn’t. It would also allow greater and faster expansion, but SNCF’s Union won’t let them become truly competitive with the other rail lines. It’d be interesting to see the lines over there REALLY expand without waiting for the politicians piddle about with it.

      I laid out a few years ago, I’d be happy to take a 3.2 billion dollar loan, build high speed rail in about 3 years that would be 30 minute frequencies with a travel time of about 1 hr 20 minutes between Portland and Seattle that could easily be profitable. This service would be in direct competition to the airlines, they wouldn’t even need to stop subsidizing the Interstates or highways. I know this could be done, there is absolutely no physical reason why this service couldn’t exist today. However there is no hope of this happening with the leaders we currently have in place. Even Florida lost on its opportunity when they screwed up with Sir Richard Branson, he was almost willing to put down the money to run high speed rail in that state, but between Amtrak and the others that got screwed up.

      It is ironic and perverse, that our greatest hope for high speed rail is to not destroy or eliminate, but to force Amtrak to competitively bid on services with other prospective providers. The other irony is that our greatest hurdle isn’t technology but the laws and regulations set forth by the FRA! Absolutely insane.

      Oh well. :/


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