01 October 2008
Rail map
Patrick Crozier

I love this sort of thing: maps where area is proportionate to something other than territory.  Hey, I even designed one of my own way back.  This is the one for rail travel.

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I think this is for passenger rail travel or else the US would be a lot bigger.  Look at China and India.  What does this say I wonder?

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  1. It says that China and India’s economies have grown (increasing travel) but that their road infrastructure lags that growth so rail is still the main means of passenger transport. I think one has to add that “something” caused the building of an extensive railway network in each country at some time in the past. Colonialism has something to do with it in both India and China, but the situation is much more complicated in China. I would be interested to know who much of China’s rail network was built under the communists and how much before.

    Argentina once had a wonderfully extensive British built rail network, but it was nationalised by Peron in 1948 and almost all passenger services (other than commuter services around Buenos Aires) closed in the early 1990s. Driving around rural Argentina is very odd in this way. There is railway infrastructure, level crossings, ghost stations and all these things everywhere, but no actual rails (which were presumably removed for scrap metal) and no trains. The rights of way are all still there, presumably in the hope that some of the railways may some day be reopened.

    There was once (finished in 1910) a railway across the Andes from Mendoza in Argentina to Chile, which is one of the more awe inspiring achievements of engineering that can be imagined. The engineers were (of course) British.

    Posted by Michael Jennings on  02 October 2008 at 09:05 am

  2. Maybe this explains something.

    A friend of mine related taking a 10-hour overnight bus ride this last (Northern) summer from Buenos Aires to a destination near Chile at the foothills of the Andes.  He described this as a rather deluxe double-deck motor coach with 3-across seating (4-across is typical for most motor coach buses), deep reclining seats of a style becoming popular for trans-Pacific Business Class airline service, and onboard meals served at the seats.  He described the fare as being a good value for the level of service.

    If Argentina dismantled their rail network, a kind of luxury bus service would be an alternative to air transport, especially on a “thin” route.  On the other hand, they must have a good highway network because he described this bus as covering 600 miles in the 10 hours.

    I wonder if such a thing could supplement long-distance trains in the U.S..  The obvious thing in the U.S. would be to cover distances that take 10 hours by ground by air, but there is a small, vocal contingent not wanting to travel by air for a variety of reasons forming the long-distance train lobby.  On the other hand, the long-distance train people want their trains, whatever the rate of subsidy, and a bus such of this would not be regarded as a substitute.

    On the other hand, I think this “Business Class” bus service sounds rather innovative.

    Posted by Paul Milenkovic on  06 October 2008 at 01:00 am

  3. Oddly enough, I caught the same overnight bus service from Buenos Aires to Mendoza (at the foot of the Andes) in April this year. It is much more comfortable than any other long distance coach I have ridden on, and is about good as such a bus service could be. (If I recall correctly the double deck bus had only about 25 seats in total). And for someone whose income is in Sterling, it was not at all expensive. However, I would still rather ride in second class on about any train. The reason is that in a bus you are shaken around far more than in any train. Yes, there was at seat meal service of quite nice food and good wine, but it was something of an ordeal to drink that wine without spilling it everywhere and/or getting motion sickness.

    Buenos Aires to Mendoza is not a thin route, as Mendoza is a large city and a major tourist centre and is at the foot of the most important road route to Chile, and the road is thus also reasonably good. Most other roads in Argentina are not good, so the service does not work especially well. In addition, air travel is regulated to death so the alternative air fares are high.

    In short, I think this kind of thing only works in very limited circumstances, which is why your friend and I are likely both telling stories of the same route.

    I would be interested to see if such services exist in Brazil, which has much more deregulated aviation and much cheaper airfares.

    Posted by Michael Jennings on  12 October 2008 at 09:14 pm

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