Tuesday, March 10, 2009

High-speed rail isn't much fun

I've got something to say about high-speed rail. I've traveled on the TGV three times, and each time I was really uncomfortable. The windows don't open, there's no compartments, there's no dining or lounge car, the seats are small. As I remember, you couldn't walk from one end of the train to the other, and there wasn't really any reason to, since it was all coaches.

Yes, maybe it's important to be able to get from LA to San Francisco in three hours, or from Chicago to Minneapolis in four. Business travelers probably don't care if they don't leave their seats as long as they have a laptop and wifi. But one of the big advantages of train travel is the comfort. Let's not sacrifice that for a top speed that's hardly ever achieved.


Anonymous said...

Wait: this isn't entirely fair. TGVs do have bistro cars, and you can walk from one end to another... I agree with you that comfort should be a priority, but TGVs aren't that bad.

Bianca said...

Not all high speed rail is the TGV. The Japanese Shinkansen trains are quite comfortable, and you can walk from car to car. The ride is much smoother than regular trains as well.

It's been a long time since I've been on a train anywhere with windows that open. Most commuter trains don't have windows that open. Why on earth would you want to open the windows on a train going 125 miles per hour?

And given that the whole point of a LA-SF route is to get people out of airplanes, the true basis for comparison of comfort is coach class on a plane, not some imaginary Orient Express of the Pacific. (You can't open the windows on a plane, either.)

BruceMcF said...

One thing about the TGV's is that they are the narrowest of the HSR's, because of the narrow loading gauge for existing French stations, so passengers of different widths are likely to find to have a different impression of comfort in TGV's.

Note that the remark, "Let's not sacrifice that for a top speed that's hardly ever achieved." seems to be a reference to the Acela, which is not really relevant to the California HSR system. The California system is going to be on its own track designed for high speed rail, like the Japanese and French and German and Italian and Tiawanese (and etc.) systems and will be able to operate in the 180mph+ speed for a big chunk of the route.