Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Air France Gets into HSR

Air France is getting into the High Speed Rail biz. If you can't beat em, join em. When do we get to code share here in California?


Tim said...

I've been advocating this for a while now. I think that US carriers should drop their regional carriers and invest in high speed rail. The one to do this is going to be sitting pretty when gas prices jump again.
Unfortunately, innovative thought is not really what the airlines are known for.

njh said...

The French are building new LGV (fast rail lines) all over the place (as are the Spaniards, you mentioned a while back). For example:
(€20M/km including an 8.3km tunnel)
andône (€10M/km)

That's cheaper than most light rail projects in the US, and certainly cheaper than a runway. (There is more steel and concrete in a single jet rated runway than 600km of high speed rail, and the land is usually cheaper too)

And this in Communist-Pinko-Hippy France with its high labour costs and unions and public holidays.

So what? Well these lines all connect to Charles-de-Gaul international airport, allowing people almost anywhere in France to hope on a train for a few hours then fly to anywhere in the world. If I were an airline, struggling with low profit on short haul, and wanting to use larger aeroplanes (say the A380, if it ever works properly) being able to move more people to hubs would be a fantastic opportunity.

arcady said...

I think to some extent, you don't even need high speed rail. Just normal speed rail and sane connections. And by the way, Air France already does offer codeshares via TGV, the difference here is that they're going to basically have a regional affiliate that is a train company. I suspect that the arrangement is going to have Air France paying Veolia to operate the trains in exactly the same way they pay the regional airlines to operate their service. What makes this possible is the EU's laws allowing open access to the rails, something that may or may not happen with California's HSR.

But at least plain old code-share is quite likely, given that the HSR will pass right by SFO, where there are many international airlines that would be happy to offer direct service to other parts of california. LAX is also a possibility, if the LACMTA ever gets around to extending a rail line there. The key, in both places, is to have sane connections between airplane and train: in the case of SFO, this would probably involve extending the AirTrain to Millbrae, while in LAX, it would be possible to build a train station right in the middle of the terminal area, with moving walkways to the actual terminals.

By the way, the Perpignan-Figueres line is being built for joint use by both freight and TGV services, something that would certainly be useful in places like the Tehachapi Pass in California, but almost certainly won't be done.

Ben. said...

Amtrak offers single reservation connections with Continental ( ) out of Newark, NJ. You can only buy the tickets through the airline or travel agent, so I guess that the rail leg is transparent to the traveler.

This happened to me when I flew from the US to Germany. Only after my purchase did I realize that the last leg was rail when the ticket listed the operator as 'DB-German Rail.

There are more and more US airports with some sort of rail connection (light, subway, commuter, and intercity) and an ever-growing interest in adding more. I haven't seen much coordination of ticketing or marketing so far, so one usually has to know that there's rail available to take advantage of it.

Loren said...

Let's see how various US cities stack up.

Boston -- urban rail from North and South Stations.

New York City -- LaGuardia Airport: bus, then urban rail. JFK: AirTrain, then LIRR. Newark: on the NEC.

Philadelphia -- good connection to the NEC, Keystone, and Atlantic City.

Washington, DC -- BWI: shuttle bus to the NEC. Reagan: urban rail to Union Station. Dulles: bus, then urban rail to Union Station.

Miami, FL -- bus then urban rail

Chicago -- O'Hare: urban rail abd commuter rail to downtown Amtrak station; possible belt-line connection to outgoing lines. Midway: urban rail to that station.

Minneapolis -- urban rail

St. Louis -- Lambert: urban rail, Mid-America: bus, then urban rail

Portland, OR -- urban rail

San Francisco -- SFO: next to possible intercity line. OAK: shuttle bus to Coliseum. San Jose: shuttle bus, then urban rail to Diridon.

Los Angeles -- LAX: shuttle bus, then urban rail to Union Station. Unused right-of-way to that station. Bob Hope / Burbank: near Amtrak / commuter-rail line.

So Newark, Philly, BWI, O'Hare, SFO, OAK, and Bob Hope have good connections or possible connections to intercity rail lines. Most of the others would require a lot of construction, and sometimes very expensive construction, to make such a connection.

arcady said...

Providence has been slowly building a station on the NEC, which passes within a quarter mile of the airport. Also, while SFO is near a potential intercity route, right now getting to that route requires taking the AirTrain from your terminal to the BART, then taking a BART train to San Bruno, and another BART train to Millbrae. That's three transfers, which is just absurd.