A reader writes in reply to my earlier article on why high speed rail is better than flying:
That DB fare is not at all connected to the cost of running the train. DB is far more subsidized than Amtrak is. [PDF warning] DB reports profits of about $1.94 per train mile while the railroad is receiving $36.78 in public funding. When public funding is taken into consideration, DB Train Operations actually cost the German government $34.88 per train mile. Similarly, passenger rail operations in the other five European countries cost their governments between $13.77 to $27.78 per train mile.
I make no claim that DB less subsidized than Amtrak. However, the report he linked is comparing apples to bratwursts. The level of service isn’t even comparable between Amtrak and DB. On Amtrak the speeds are slower, on older equipment that is close to worn out in stations that are mostly falling apart.
The one flaw in that study that immediately jumps out at me however is that they compared all of DB to just the Amtrak NEC and corridor services. However, DB operates all of the local trains as well as freight. So to have a proper comparison, the study should have also included NJTransit Rail, SEPTA’s Rail (not the subway, trolly, and bus services), MARC, Long Island RR, Metro North, Chicago’s Metra, Chicago’s South Shore, etc etc.
If rail in the US were operated like in Germany, than all of those other companies I mentioned would be part of Amtrak rather than their own entities. Take THOSE subsides into account and the operational subsidy will be much closer and the resulting disparty in service levels and quality will appear that much more drastic.