Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Even Amtrak can beat the plane

with 3 comments

Railway Age

March 25, 2008

Regular readers will be aware of the support this blog gives to High Speed Trains, which are showing the world over a new way to travel in greater comfort and style, and often faster than air travel. The best thing for me though is that while planes are once of the worst CO2 emitters, train travel is one of the least offensive in terms of carbon emissions.

Now I was very surprised indeed to learn from Transport 2000 that even Amtrak, not noted for either its speed or reliability, is now beating the airlines

Harrisburg-New York air service ending, attributed in part to Amtrak

Nonstop air service between Harrisburg, Pa., and New York City will cease April 6, an apparent victim of fuel prices, airport congestion, and Amtrak.

Colgan Air, a subsidiary of Pinnacle Airlines Corp., began the short-distance service last September. Colgan has not commented on its decision to end service.

But a spokesman for Harrisburg International Airport said Colgan load factors for flights between the two cities averaged 25% to 30%, below Colgan’s targeted 40% threshold. The spokesman noted that, due to frequent flight delays, Amtrak service linking the two cities was time competitive and less costly.

Amtrak, in conjunction with Pennsylvania, recently increased service on the Keystone Corridor, linking Harrisburg and Philadelphia, after upgrading infrastructure between the two cities. It also extended the service onto its Northeast Corridor to provide more direct service between Harrisburg and New York.

The North East Corridor is one of the few places in North America that has long distance, electric passenger trains. And service by Amtrak on the NEC is quite unlike most of the intercity services they provide elsewhere.

Missing from the story is any mention of airport security. But that in itself these days is a major source of delays and inconvenience . It does show that you do not have to be very much better – just give people a viable option. What most commentators also neglect to mention when it comes to North American air versus passenger rail is how much public investment has been made in airports, and many communities see airport building as way of capturing more business, rather than making money out of airport operations.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 6, 2008 at 11:57 am

Posted in Railway, Transportation

3 Responses

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  1. That Harrisburg-New York run is about three hours.

    Click to access W10.pdf


    April 6, 2008 at 12:56 pm

  2. So it is not surprising that for people travelling city centre to city centre, the train is “time competitive”

    Stephen Rees

    April 6, 2008 at 2:43 pm

  3. Don’t worry, Amtrak is working hard to make train security just as inconvenient as airport security!

    Cap'n Transit

    April 6, 2008 at 7:30 pm

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