French rail company makes $1.7 billion profit in 2007

While airlines and automakers struggle to minimize their losses as fuel prices keep climbing, at least one transportation company is thriving. French rail operator, SNCF, scored a profit of over $1.7 billion in 2007 and expects to do even better this year. SNCF operates the TGV trains that routinely travel at speeds up to 200 mph in commercial service. Unlike here in the US, rail companies in Europe and Asia have actually invested in the infrastructure and equipment to make train travel fast and reliable. Admittedly, in the days of cheap fuel, Americans had little interest in trains, but maybe they need to reconsider.

Air travel in the age of the TSA and $145/barrel oil is anything but fast and efficient. And flyers are getting squeezed more and more. For example, US Airways announced that it will remove in-flight entertainment systems from domestic aircraft to save 500lbs. Furthermore, every airline is now charging fees for checked bags and just about everything else. As a result, European travelers are hopping on the train in ever greater numbers, with SNCF expecting an increase of 8 percent this year to 80 million passenger trips. Too bad we have no such viable option here in the US. Unless you live in the Northeast, where the the Amtrak Acela runs between Boston and Washington, D.C., train travel really isn't an alternative to flying or driving on short or medium distance trips for most Americans. For longer distances, trains make no sense in the U.S. from a time and cost standpoint, particularly for business travelers, for whom those two factors are critically important.

[Source: The Guardian]

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