High-speed rail

LA to SF is 380 miles
Milan to Paris 560 miles
Lisbon to Riga is over 2,400 miles
Lisbon to Helsinki is over 2,700 miles
Glasgow to Istanbul is over 2,260 miles

Ridership of the Lake Shore Limited rail connecting Chicago and NYC is about 350,000 annually. Lake Shore Limited - Wikipedia

Ridership of the current Berlin-Paris rail is about 215,000 in the most recent year. Reborn Night Train Links Berlin And Paris | Barron's

Not sure what you mean by “well-developed” but the demand for such a service seems at least comparable to Europe.

“Well-developed” high-speed rail. It’s not infeasible to have low-speed rail from NYC to Chicago. As you point out, Amtrak runs that route which takes about 21 hours city-to-city.

Meanwhile, though, the Berlin-Paris rail service runs about 8 hours for the fastest trains. It’s not direct, which is what your article was about - the establishment of a no-transfer route between the two cities.

So, again - it’s easy for the national rail companies of Berlin and Paris to come up with a connecting route, with a robust and well-developed system of existing high-speed rail covering their countries. It’s all-but-impossible for the U.S. to build a new high-speed rail system from NYC to Chicago, since we would have to start from scratch since there is virtually no HSR infrastructure in place today.

As an aside, I believe your figures are comparing total ridership along the entire Lake Shore Limited Route (which isn’t limited to NYC-Chicago, as it certainly includes Boston but also probably includes all of the folks riding that route for intermediate stops like NYC-Cleveland or Albany-Buffalo) to just the Berlin-Paris city-pair.

I wonder how many people who currently fly between Chicago and New York would rather take a train which involves much less security theatre?
The market might be a lot bigger than expected.

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High speed buses? Overnight buses?

It takes about 3 hours, gate to gate, to fly between the two cities. It takes about eight hours to go from Berlin to Paris via rail today today - which is probably the best reasonable case. Tokyo to Fukouoka is only five hours, but it’s a third shorter distance - so figure closer to six and half hours is the fastest feasible time for a direct connection between the two cities.

There will certainly be some people who would be willing to make that switch to avoid “security theatre”. But probably not a ton.

And of course this was the route of the famous trains by New York Central and Pennsylvania RR. Broadway Limited and Twentieth Century Limited.

They were the preferred route taken by celebrities from NY to Hollywood switching to Santa Fe in Chicago.

The tracks and bridges are there. All they need is money to upgrade the right of way and buy the equipment.


iirc, one of the differences with “high speed” lines is there are no grade crossings. They are built like freeways, with all roads going either over, or under, the tracks. That raises costs. I doubt slow freights share the tracks with the passenger trains either, so that raises costs more.

Steve…trying not to think about what would happen to a pickup whose driver thinks he can “beat the train”, that is hit by a 160mph train.

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Northeast Corridor line runs Acela on the inner two tracks of their four track rr–isolated and fenced as you describe. NJ Transit commuter lines use the outer two tracks. Switcher freights run from 2 am to 6 am daily.

Of course freight capacity is limited but enough for the area between New York and Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia SEPTA shares some tracks with freights. SEPTA is electric but not high speed.

Amtrak owns the northeast corridor line and can do whatever Congress is willing to authorize and fund. Minimal conflict with privately owned railroads–once all Conrail now mostly Norfolk Southern and CSX. Electrified routes were built mostly by Pennsylvania RR.

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The train from Milan to Paris is 643 km, which is just under 400 miles.


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iirc, if that NE corridor was the only thing Amtrak ran, it could cover it’s costs. The problem is other routes, like NYC/Chicago. Running at high speed, through a lot of little towns and farms gets sketchy, without isolated mainlines. There is a lot of train traffic around metro Detroit, and a seemingly endless supply of people who come to a grade crossing and think they can “beat the train”. With a train running at 160, it’s probably safe to assume that, if you can see it, you can’t beat it, but people will try, and die.

Running freight and passenger traffic on the same line also helps amortize costs. We recently had a thread on the subsidy level of urban mass transit. Numbers around 90% were thrown around. For-profit railroad’s idea of track that is “good enough” for their 50mph freight isn’t that comfortable for a passenger train at 80, so that is another problem: persuading the roads to maintain the track to a level beyond what they need for their business.


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I mistakenly looked at auto travel between Milan and Paris. But the fact remains that 400 miles is not halfway across Europe. Remember that West of the Urals in Russia is still Europe.

He said:

But realize that Milan to Paris is pretty much HALF of [western] Europe, while LA to SF is still entirely within a single state!

Continental Western Europe is about 850 miles across. That’s the distance from Vienna to the Atlantic coast of France near Nantes. Milan to Paris is 398 miles. Seems close enough.


You haven’t seen the morning commute from Sac, Stockton, Tracy to the Bay Area every morning and back in the afternoon.

You should probably go back and read what I actually wrote.


Continental Europe goes from Perm in Russia to the French coast.

Yes, when I lived in NJ there was a proposal to privatize Amtrak. Northeast Corridor Line at that time (abt 2002) could cover operating costs. But would still require funds from Congress to replace capital equipment (such as train sets and locomotives) and probably maintain or improve tracks, stations, etc. I think it was Sen Robert Byrd of WV who saved Amtrak that time.

Congress seems more receptive to the idea that we need rail service. But it does require subsidies in most states. More ridership would be a plus.

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The first High Speed direct train proposed in California Between San Diego =>Orange County to Downtown LA was 1972. It fell apart due to passage through San Clemente. The current LOSSAN rail corridor was concidered the best San Diego =>LA=>San Jose=>SF passage to expand into a high speed rail. The plan went to nowhere. In 2008 the plan for a SF LA line was proposed to completion by 2020. Not one piece of rail has been laid 16 years later. There is no way in Hell that in the next ten years there will be anything more than a high-speed speed rail from Merced to Fresno; high-speed rail to nowhere with no riders. Actually, the rail passage from San Diego =>OC=>LA has since the 1950s always paid for itself, and no plan to put the high-speed line in even though it’s proven the best ridership of all in California.
High-speed Rail from Merced to Fresno, train to nowhere that will cost >$30bil.

He said western Europe. That part of Russia - along with Poland and Slovakia and all the other states in that region - are generally considered central or eastern Europe. Western Europe typically extends as far as Austria. Greece and Turkey are typically considered part of Southern Europe.

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My bad - I did not notice the small western in brackets.