Air Travel Expert Tells Americans: "Take the Train"

US air travel's current strong recovery from the prolonged post-9/11 doldrums - a rebound already bringing with it more flight delays, congestion and security hassles -- should prompt an urgent reassessment of America's neglect of its rail system.

Austin, TX, (PRWEB) March 12, 2004--US air travel's current strong recovery from the prolonged post-9/11 doldrums - a rebound already bringing with it more flight delays, congestion and security hassles -- should prompt an urgent reassessment of America's neglect of its rail system, travel expert David Rowell told a Texas travel industry group this week.

"Air travel has become a form of cruel and unusual punishment," Rowell, Seattle-based publisher of The Travel Insider, a widely-read weekly for sophisticated travelers, told a meeting of the Austin Business Travel Association. But he added that it is about to get very much worse as passengers return to the air. America badly needs to review its travel priorities and invest heavily in rail, he said.

Referring to a recent Travel Insider study which showed air travellers now arrive at an airport 81 minutes before their flight is scheduled to depart, Rowell said, "The total travel time for an air journey has lengthened substantially since 9/11. In those same 81 minutes, a high speed train could take its passengers more than 125 miles."

Amtrak's main problem and the reason why it can't attain profitability is its lack of services, according to Rowell. "In Europe, over 90% of train routes have more than five trains a day. In the US, only 5% of Amtrak's routes operate at this level, and 75% of the Amtrak network has only one train a day." Rowell explained, "Amtrak's high fixed costs are simply not spread over enough services and passengers to break even."

Rowell, who founded and grew a large travel wholesale company in which air travel business predominated, advocates a massive national investment into short distance (under 400 mile) high speed rail links, connecting major population centers and offering a service that would be faster, more convenient, less expensive, and safer than flying or driving. "High speed rail would be very expensive," he said "but so too are the alternatives. California is poised to adopt an ambitious $37 billion high speed rail project, but it has been estimated this will be offset by a saving of $87 billion that does not need to be spent on more freeways and airports." He suggested that the Dallas - Houston - San Antonio - Austin - Dallas triangle would be well suited for such high speed rail links, with trains traveling up to 200 mph giving short journey times.

Other countries have no hesitation in making massive investments to grow their rail networks. Britain, a country with one sixth the US population, and already blessed with a comprehensive rail system, is spending $15 billion on improvements. Australia has just added another 1,000 miles of track. "America needs to catch up with the resurgence of rail elsewhere in the world," Rowell said.

Rowell pointed out the nation spends over $30 billion of federal money on highways every year, while Amtrak struggles to get even $1 billion in funding. The result is a crippled operation that is unable to provide the level of services to bring people back to rail. "Amtrak can be saved only by visionary expansion, not by further cuts in budgets and services. With steadily increasing energy costs, and the continued security fears associated with air travel, we should focus on the most energy efficient means of passenger transportation out there - rail. As for security, no train could ever be driven into a building."

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Source :  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2004/3/prweb110732.htm