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Thread: Trains or planes?

  1. #1 Trains or planes? 
    Forum Professor Pendragon's Avatar
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    The European Union has the objective to encourage travelling by train instead of by airplane on short-distances, to limit pollution. Is this a good idea, or are airplanes just to efficient and cheap to be outcompeted by railroad-connections?


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  3. #2 Re: Trains or planes? 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pendragon
    The European Union has the objective to encourage travelling by train instead of by airplane on short-distances, to limit pollution. Is this a good idea, or are airplanes just to efficient and cheap to be outcompeted by railroad-connections?
    I'm sure you know that the size of most of all of the European countries, besides Russia, is very small as compared to the United States. That makes trains and buses much easier to schedule and control over planes for the distances traveled between countries is reletivly short. America, on the other hand, would require at least 3 days or so bY train to cross from Florida to Alaska stopping to disembark and embark passengers along the way. That's a rather long time if you only have 2 weks for vacation or need to be at a meeting.


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    Forum Sophomore spidergoat's Avatar
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    For short distances, trains make more sense. Rails can easily be used with alternative fuel sources, unlike airplanes. Planes aren't really that efficient (except with time), and they won't be so cheap forever.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spidergoat
    For short distances, trains make more sense. Rails can easily be used with alternative fuel sources, unlike airplanes. Planes aren't really that efficient (except with time), and they won't be so cheap forever.
    Low cost carriers expanding – but what about short haul freight markets?


    (SYDNEY: 20 December 2004) The explosive growth of low cost carriers in the Asia Pacific region has been a boon for manufacturers of narrow-body short haul aircraft – particularly Airbus. While the new breed of low cost carriers tap the massive potential discretionary and budget traveller markets, another large potential market beckons – intra-Asian air freight.

    According to the Centre’s Managing Director, “air freight carriage in Asia is frequently a lucrative business. Rapid organic growth rates aside, the trend towards low cost passenger operating models in short haul markets (which tend not to carry much cargo, due to tight turnarounds), could also boost the region’s requirement for dedicated freighter aircraft.

    “This is certainly a potential in large city pair markets which are currently served by conventional airlines. As low cost capacity expands – and changes the behaviour of all operators – so new opportunities open up for freight carriage”, said Mr Harbison.

    For example, India’s Agricultural Exporters Association has recently expressed concerns that the launch of Air India Express services from Southern India next March could dent exports to the Gulf region, as 14-tonne capacity A310s are replaced with B737s. Air India is now seeking freighter aircraft to relaunch dedicated cargo operations, at the same time as it enters the low cost scene.

    Elsewhere, Malaysia Airlines has entered an agreement with conversion specialist Pemco, to set up a B737 passenger-to-freighter conversion centre in Malaysia. Both companies are hopeful for a steady flow of used passenger aircraft to be reborn for a new life serving Asia’s burgeoning freight markets.


    More at:

    http://www.centreforaviation.com/abo...04_Freight.htm
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  6. #5  
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    I'm sure you can predict my answer by now. When the cost of aviation fuel goes through the roof, these freight carriers will make no economic sense, and these countries will be kicking themselves not to have developed a train system, preferably electric.
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  7. #6  
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    ..can planes fly on hydro-fuel? If not, then I think I agree with spider that lowcost flying is a dead end. But at least for the coming decades it will be a very good alternative to railroad.

    Cosmic gave the example of going from Florida to Alaska, which is about 9600 km (6000 miles) according to some motorcycle website. The French TGV can top about 320 km/hours, so it would take it minimally 30 hours to cross this distance. The most modern magnetic-tranes (monorail) can top 450 and would take about 21 hours. How long would a plane take for this distance?
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  8. #7  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pendragon
    ..can planes fly on hydro-fuel? If not, then I think I agree with spider that lowcost flying is a dead end. But at least for the coming decades it will be a very good alternative to railroad.

    Cosmic gave the example of going from Florida to Alaska, which is about 9600 km (6000 miles) according to some motorcycle website. The French TGV can top about 320 km/hours, so it would take it minimally 30 hours to cross this distance. The most modern magnetic-tranes (monorail) can top 450 and would take about 21 hours. How long would a plane take for this distance?
    Most passenger aircraft can go 6000 miles in 10 hours or less so they are much easier to go with plus they can hold , today, more than 500 people which a train that was mentioned here can't do with the amount of cars it pulls. Of course there are some slower diesel powered trains that could pull many more cars but that would slow the speed considerably.Planes make much better ways to travel, especially across water like the Atlantic ocean.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler
    Planes make much better ways to travel, especially across water like the Atlantic ocean.
    Eh yea I guess you got a point there :wink: For intercontinental travelling there's really no alternative to airplanes. That could become a real problem when the petrol runs out. Switch back to boats?
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    I'm thinking solar-powered dirigibles. That's hydrogen power at it's best.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by spidergoat
    I'm thinking solar-powered dirigibles. That's hydrogen power at it's best.
    They don't carry much, that's their weakness.

    Hydrogen can be used to fuel ships so the ships could still be with us just using hydrogen instead of diesel or gas.
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  12. #11 Re: Trains or planes? 
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    Is this a good idea, or are airplanes just to efficient and cheap to be outcompeted by railroad-connections?[/quote]


    In general its quite hard to answer this. But what i know is that the EU is spending a lot of money on research and development of new transportation systems like the shuttle concept in railways. This shuttle concept, works in a way which will require only the required number of shuttles to serve customers. So in a couple of years, you wont see entire trains empty with two passengers. Such shuttles will also be individually powered, and can join and disjoin other shuttles enroute the destination...
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    first time I've heard of that concept, interesting! So those shuttles are like auto's on railway tracks, like a line of rail-taxi's waiting at stations for passengers?
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    Individual, high speed rail based transportation is in my opinion the only, still unexisting alternative.


    Today, it takes exactly the same amount of time (door to door) to take a plane or a train. If you take a plane, you'll have to be at the airport at least 1.5 hours in advance. If you take a TGV, you can get there 15 min in advance, so that the time lost while rolling is nothing compared to the time lost in the airport.

    The problem is, planes are now cheaper to take than the TGV
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    I thought I might as well bring this up:

    From Tupolev Coporation (Aircraft Manufacturing Company in Russia)

    Cryogenic Fuel Aircraft
    http://www.tupolev.ru/English/Show.asp?SectionID=82

    The Tu-155 prototype uses natural gas, or methane, fuel for its central engine, and made its maiden flight in the late 1980s. In the Tu-156 all three engines are adapted to burn either hydrogen or natural gas. Cryogenics technology to store the liquid fuel is used in the development of both Tu-155 and Tu-156.


    Below is a picture from a Testflight of the Tu-155 (Tupolev Company Site)


    Fly.net reports:
    (the Tu-155) flew for the first time on 15 April 1988 with a Kuznetsov NK-88 engine (installed in the centre-tail position) conceived to run with liquid hydrogen or methane. A huge fuel tank was installed inside the rear cabin and the fuel transfer pipe to the engine was placed outside the fuselage. Unfortunately, also due to the USSR collapse, the funding for the programme was suspended later that year. So the feasibility of air transportation by fuel obtained from water, instead of traditional fuels, is still to be determined

    http://www.fly-net.org/aeromedia/lb252ila.html


    It is intensley insane that America is not funding resarch like this, now nearly 20 years later.
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  16. #15  
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    The problem is, planes are now cheaper to take than the TGV
    Why is that? I think that's a decisive question. Flights have become cheaper, and the (logical??) reaction of railway companies is to hike up their prices. Is this just a problem of supply and demand? I am not aware that kerosene has become very cheap over the last decades, I hear rather the opposite. But economy is not all that counts...

    Other aspects that I haven't seen discussed: Convenience of a (quasi) direct connection, and ability to extend infrastructure.

    Even with the relatively dense network of railways in Europe and parts of Asia (China is still making massive use of the railway, btw, despite a country size close to that of the US!) going from A to B very often involves several stops and train changes. That's not very convenient, especially if you are carrying a lot of luggage. Today you are more likely to find a direct flight, than a direct train connection, and even if the flight is not direct, at least you don't have to carry all your luggage around when changing.

    Opening new routes (and closing unprofitable ones), i.e. adjusting connection to satisfy the current demand, is a lot easier for the airtraffic industry than for the railways companies, for obvious reasons. The only infrastructure you depend on are airports, and they already exist in all major cities. Of course, you can build a direct railway from Miami to Seattle, but think of the cost involved! Who is going to guarantee that your investment would pay off for decades to come?

    Apart from economy considerations, railways are either of two things: Inherently inflexible or inconvenient. Most systems I have seen in Europe and the US, are both. The question is, do the advantages make up for the disadvantages?

    There is certainly always going to be a range of distances over which it simply doesn't pay off to spend hours at the airport just to get on a short flight. But in another new development, more and more people fly small charter planes allowing for infinitely flexible schedules and routes, over those short distances!
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  17. #16  
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    I think the TGV will get cheaper as more people get more nevironmental concerns and the lines expand to new regions. It's an awesome train and they have some great deals if you are going to commute on it.
    Pierre

    Fight for our environment and our habitat at www.wearesmartpeople.com.
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  18. #17  
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    I will add another log to the fire :P

    Trains require alot of infrastructure. To fly 100 miles requires 6000 metres of hardened concreete. to fly 1000 miles also requires 6000 metres of concrete, and 10,000 miles requires the same amount of concrete.

    To train 100 miles requires 100 miles of track. A 10,000 mile train journey requires 10,000 miles of track.


    The cost sink is the infrastructure which needs to be designed, built (often with modifications to the surrounding country side such as cuttings, tree felling, and tunnel making) and then Maintained (or else it degrades.) the further you wish to travel, the more rail you need.

    Aviation on the other hand only requires infrastructure to be built at the destinations. Yes these also need to be designed built (with modifications to the countryside such as leveling ground and building roads to service the airfield) and maintained (from making sure the runway surface is unmarred to air traffic controllers making sure aircraft don't try to occupy the same place at the same time). However the space between destinations can be left completley untouched, no cuttings tunnels and tree lopping for hundreds of miles between destination terminals.

    the Infrastructure cost for Railways is high in comparison. Especially when dealing with difficult terrain such as high mountains, deserts, seas, permafrost and pack ice.

    Hydrogen powered jet aircraft can become a sustainable less poluting development of the Jet Airliner. Moreover, Legislation in the past from NTSB dealing with incidents has proved that phased replacement programs can phase in new technology. Usually this is done in response to an incident or accident where a design fault contributed to an accident, but the process is the important thing here. If there were political will, the FAA NTSB and various other aviation agencies could slowly - for instance over 20 years - phase out Jet A1 fuel in favour for greener environmentally friendly and longterm sustainable powerplants on jet airliners. The fact that the as-yet-unbuilt Boeing 787 still runs on the same fuel that the 1950's Boeing 707 used shows just how interested the agencys and politicians are in the future of non-oil travel. The fact that many aircraft have life cycles of over 25 years (ie they remain servicing airlines for 25 years after they are built, and many times much longer than that) means that we will still have 787's flying in 2035 and beyond... assuming there's still oil available

    Yes that's right.. inaction from the FAA NTSB and American Government in General has committed aviation to using Oil Based Aviation fuel till at least 2035 at best! Not that the technology doesn't exist to fly with non-oil based aircraft fuels, Russia proved as much with the Tupolev Tu-155 in 1989. However it seems that 17 years isn't long enough for replicating Russian Technology. Ah well, give them a chance, theyre only Boeing and Airbus, not like theyre big multinational coperations with access to the latest in science and engineering right? *cough*

    I wonder what the new design of aircraft will be in 2035? If it's a Jet A1 powered airliner, I might just have to give up on this planet.
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  19. #18  
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    Some good points have been made. The Tupolev project suggests that hydrogen-powered airplanes should be possible, and the point that air traffic both allows more dense and dynamic transport networks can also be decisive.

    So yea I guess even for continental transport the train will never really replace the airplane. But on the major transport lines (between the capitals of Europe for example, or the major cities of the US) the train could still be more practical in a post-oil world.
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