• Dec 6, 2007
I must admit I'm a great fan of high-speed trains: they're very comfortable, they're fast and they take and leave you in the center of the city of your choice (usually). Japanese bullet trains and European TGVs, ICEs and AVEs have returned dignity back to railway transport. But not everybody is happy about them.

As our readers pointed out, Spain is building an extensive network of high-speed trains, which is also being used to connect the Iberian Peninsula to the rest of Europe (the current track gauge used there is different than the standard European one). But some voices are being quite serious about the real cost of high speed trains.

First of all there's the construction work, which affects land usage: Spain needs to build additional tracks and can't refurbish the current ones because of the different track gauge. This increases the cost of the work, which is being diverted from conventional trains, like the ones you might use to go to work on a daily basis.

Then there's the question of where the electricity comes from. When a high speed train runs above 300 km/h (about 200 mph), it uses as much energy per person as a plane (or so its claimed in this article, which is in Spanish). Where does this electricity come from? France's source is obvious: nuclear energy, which is also exported to Germany and Spain, a country where also most of the electric power comes from gas, coal and oil plants.

What's your opinion on this?

[Source: Ecología y Desarrollo, Noticias cada día]


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  • 23 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      With the Screwed up US Air System( overbooked and always late cattle cars in the sky ) we'd better start looking at a national high speed rail system as well.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Totally agree NM. Just google it and you'll find that assuming a coal-based generation scheme, the train emits 10 times less. In france the TGV emits nothing at all cause all electricity is nuclear and hydro.
      To Chris M: the transrapid is a maglev train. And did you know maglevs use even far less energy?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Mark -

      Mass and friction.

      - Dave
      • 7 Years Ago
      On the point with trains being able to get your energy from clean sources: Spain and Italy seem to be going in the direction of thermodynamic-solar plants, where you use collector mirrors to superheat water above 500C. Five such power stations were approved and funded last week in Italy. In California 9 of these have been in use for years and generate 350 MW. Spain have about 30 such power stations under way for 1300MW.
      In France the focus seems to be more on Nuclear.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I just read about a huge new solar power plant proposed for the Sahara that would export power to Europe.
      www.omninerd.com/news/Harvesting_Solar_Power_from_the_Sahara_Desert

      That would match up well with electric trains to provide fast, environmentally neutral, convenient inter-city transportation.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well I am glad to see that Spain is following Germany with it's feed-in tarif (EEG, since 2000) on solarpower. Germany with this feed-in tarif created 215.000 jobs, a 9 billion market in solarpanels and is now by FAR the leading solarpower producer in the world. They create more then half of all solarpower produced in the world, and this in 7 years! And the best thing is, it's all done without federal funding!
      • 7 Years Ago
      I agree that because it's electric, the source of that power can be from renewables. Spain is a great place for solar energy production. Here's news one one such project.
      http://www.solarbuzz.com/News/NewsEUPR396.htm
      • 7 Years Ago
      It'd be great if they used less energy, but even if they don't, at least they use electricity, which we can generate from clean sources, instead of fossil fuels, which will be disruptive to switch from.
      • 7 Years Ago
      http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/transportation/4232548.html?page=1

      This article shows (on the second page) carbon emissions to be more comparable to conventional trains and energy use to be less than half.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Definitely a large fan of the high speed trains. Rail travel in Europe is organized chaos - not reserved seats. But it always works out. Very efficient way to get around. So much the better that it using electricity vs. oil.

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      • 7 Years Ago
      Trains are far more efficient than planes. To even think otherwise is silly. Maybe if airports adopt a catapult launcher similar to aircraft carriers it would start to get close but a monster plane taking off will always doom planes to higher CO2 emmisions. Trains have repeatedly been shown the most efficient form of mass transportation available. People who say otherwise have some other nefarious agenda.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I couldn't care less whether or not high-speed trains are faster, slower, cleaner, dirtier, or more or less energy efficient than airplanes. The EXPERIENCE is so superior to air travel that I would always choose a high-speed train (or even a reasonably fast one) over an airplane everytime if given the choice.
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