The End of Commuter Trains? How the One Percent Uses Technology to its Advantage

High speed trains have displaced commuter trains - at least here in Italy on the much travelled Rome-Milano route, and I suspect in all other countries where super fast trainst have been introduced using the existing railways. Now if you build special railroads for your fast trains, there's no problem, it's an additional service for those who can afford it and are looking to save on their travel time - namely big time politicians and managers, in short the one percent.

But, and this is a big BUT, if you force your high speed trains on existing railways, you necessarily cut into the scheduling of  slower local trains, in particular commuter trains. And that affects the rest of us, the 99 percent. I was sharply reminded of this yesterday when I decided to spend the day in Rome with my 98 year-old mother: I took the train from the Chiusi-Chianciano station which is not far from our summer place in the Umbrian countryside, figuring that it would be less tiring than driving into town. In addition, I'd be able to enjoy my Kindle and catch up on my reading. A nice train (yes, that's the picture up here) with good seats and air conditioning. But so slow...It took two hours on a trip that used to last one hour or maybe one hour and ten minutes only a few years ago!

And there was simply NO faster alternative!

Now, some five years ago when I travelled like this - in the halcyon days before the Rome-Milano high speed train service came on - it was possible to find several convenient options of reasonably fast trains that made it to Rome in about one hour. 

No more. 

The fastest train now makes it in one hour and 45 minutes and most of them take two hours. That's a doubling of the travel time! Plus the options are far fewer than before: about four or five trains a day as against a train every hour. 

That makes for a very big difference! I remember I had colleagues who had chosen to live in nice big country houses near Chiusi Chianciano and used to commute into Rome every day, taking about an hour an half, considering the subway ride added at the end of the train trip. A long commute but bearable. I wonder how they manage now with a two and half hour commute!

Thus Italy can proudly say it has a "Ferrari" train service driving a "high-speed rail renaissance". Sounds good, looks good, here it is, the "Red Arrow" (Frecciarossa):

Italiano: Frecciarossa ETR500 a Milano Central...
Italiano: Frecciarossa ETR500 a Milano Centrale, opera propria, 03/05/2009, l'autore sono io, copyright libero (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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