The Economist have an interesting article on the economics of very fast trains, particularly comparing Japan’s Tokaido route with the planned San Francisco to Los Angeles train in California.
Considering that every five years or so a Lyle Langley wannabe proposes a taxpayer funded VFT linking Canberra to Sydney as a universal panacea this is a subject of enduring interest.
They had this to say on the subject of such trains more broadly:
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The sole reason why Shinkansen plying the Tokaido route make money is the sheer density—and affluence—of the customers they serve. All the other Shinkansen routes in Japan lose cart-loads of cash, as high-speed trains do elsewhere in the world. Only indirect subsidies, creative accounting, political patronage and national chest-thumping keep them rolling.
But a bigger question is why we have to jump straight to bullet trains and maglev when we talk about improving rail infrastructure in Australia (and in particular to Canberra)?
Surely getting a proper railway line (that’s electrified dual track) to a transport hub in Canberra (at least a bus interchange if not Civic) is a precursor before we start snart hankering to sniff it through a cane on a supersonic train?