Taking the train

By | July 4, 2011

To get from Philadelphia to New York, a distance of just under 100 miles, or around 150 km, we took the option of booking aboard the Acela Express which does the trip in an hour and 12 minutes.  This is roughly the same distance as the trip from Newcastle to Sydney. The fare was $90 per person one way to travel in business class. This could be considered expensive but, we thought through the other options.  To fly would cost slightly more and then there’s the need to add cab fare to and from the airport at each end, allowance of time for check in and full body security screening as well as the possibility of air traffic delays in landing in New York.

Even we had our own car, there’s the potential for heavy traffic approaching New York and the ‘real costs’ which are calculated in the KM allowance paid by employers, or as a tax claim which would see a 150 km trip being a cost of at lest $75 plus applicable tolls and a longer driving time.

For our fare we had seats in Express Business class, with nice broad seats, a table, free wifi internet access and a power outlet, as well as onboard access to the buffet car.  The track seemed to be banked in places to deal with the speed and he trip seemed effortless and fast.

We couldn’t help reflecting on the possibilities which must exist if there was a similar service available between Sydney and Newcastle and Sydney and Canberra.

There would clearly be significant infrastructure restrictions in the case of the Newcastle line, as the current curve radii etc would probably make the speeds impossible.  The topography of the Hawkesbury sandstone country and the intrusion into existing National Parks also present other issues to overcome but, even a less ambitious plan to simply look at providing some differential seating to attract business travellers on trains which were times to optimise the travel time would be a start.


And yes, I know there would be an outcry from some; about our ‘culture of egalitarianism’ about any attempt to re-create a ‘class’ system on the rail, but, if we get high end users to see the train as a chic way to combine a business trip with the capacity to maintain productivity on board then this would also model a move away from the culture we have developed where the train is rarely even considered as an option by many.

The sight of a distant Manhattan skyline beckoning across the flats and industrial landscapes of Newark as we sped toward the ‘Big Apple’ was a tease before we entered the final tunnel under the Hudson to emerge into the bustle of Penn Station in New York City.

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