Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Just how does the "other half" live with High-Speed Rail?

It's not often that you can read articles from tomorrow's newspaper.  Here's one from The Telegraph.  It's from the UK, but boy does it resonate here with us.

Who is high-speed rail for?  Certainly not blue-collar working stiffs.  It's for professionals, executives and the affluent.

High-Speed Rail has been promoting itself as an ideal way to travel, with Wi-Fi on board so that no one will feel that their productivity is in any way constrained.

A research project finds that those hard-working executives aren't.  Hard working that is, when they ride the trains.  (I've noticed on airplanes, while everyone has their computer open, most people aren't working either.)

But, do we really care?  Isn't it enough to know that zillions of our tax dollars are going to be spent building luxury trains for that upper slice of the population? And, even with huge ticket costs, in the case of these business men (and women?) expensed on from the travel budget, the trains require government subsidies.  

We posted a blog entry today identifying the subsidy amounts on Amtrak's many train routes. Whether they're working or not, only the well-to-do can afford to ride on this expensive train. Why should I have my tax dollars build this train rather than support better education for my kids and their kids, so that rich people can ride?  That's just not right!

What amazes me is that Democrats aren't even paying any attention to the social/economic inequities of this train they are so eager to build to save America from disaster.

Thursday 29 September 2011
 Road and rail transport
Business executives enjoy less strain on train
By David Millward, Transport Editor
Rather than use their time on board to catch up on work, most businessmen and women while away the hours staring at other passengers and gazing out of the window at the countryside.

The reality of how they spend their time on board trains was contained in evidence submitted by the Department for Transport to a parliamentary inquiry into plans for a high speed rail network.

Oxera, a firm of consultants called in by the DfT, found that as little as 10 per cent of journey time could be productive.

“In fact, more business travellers spent most of their travel time reading for leisure, gazing out of the window or “people-watching” than spent it working,” the study found.

The findings will disappoint train operators who have spent huge amounts trying to make rail travel more attractive for businessmen by installing Wi-Fi and improving mobile phone reception in recent years.

According to the Oxera study this has had little or no impact on the behaviour of business passengers who often pay huge amounts to travel by rail.

But even now connectivity is patchy and even Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, is understood to be frustrated by the problems he faces making calls or dealing with emails while travelling by train.

Another study, by the University of the West of England, came to similar conclusions.

It found that 46 per cent of business passengers stared at the countryside or at others on board the train, while 43 per cent just read for leisure.

Just over half did spend some time working, but then more than one in 10 admitted they were either bored or spent part of the trip snoozing.

A first class ticket from London to Manchester can cost as much as £199.50 for a journey lasting just over two hours.

Estimates of how much a business executive’s time vary. According to Mark Cameron, a City headhunter, a figure of £80 to £150 an hour is not unreasonable.

The findings were seized upon by Simon Buck, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association.

“Maybe they are just dreaming about how much of their income tax goes toward the £5 billion public subsidy rail receives from the Government every year.”

But a spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies defended the value of travelling by rail.

“Travelling by train offers business passengers the choice to wind down with a glass of wine and take in the scenery, or make the most of Wi-Fi access to get some work done – not things that you can always do on a plane.

"The city central locations of most train stations also makes getting to and from appointments quicker and more convenient, rather than wasting valuable time in lengthy airport queues.

“The fact is that more and more businesses are choosing to send their staff by train – so they must be confident that their time is being used productively.”

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