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Technology

Numbers: Railways, From Amtrak to TGV to China

By Jeremy JacquotFebruary 28, 2010 6:00 AM

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10 Million Approximate number of passengers who ride the nation’s major regional rail systems each day, according to a 2009 report from the Federal Transit Administration. Amtrak, the government-supported corporation that provides intercity rail service, carries another 78,000 passengers daily.

43 Percentage of American freight that moves between cities by rail, the Association of American Railroads reports. One train can carry the same load as 280 trucks. Freight trains can move a ton of cargo 457 miles on a gallon of fuel, versus 130 miles for a full-size tractor trailer.

1 Percentage of all passenger intercity trips of more than 50 miles made by rail in the United States. Ninety percent of them are by car, 7 percent by air, and 2 percent by bus.

150 Top speed, in miles per hour, of Amtrak’s Acela Express, the fastest train in the U.S. France’s Train à Grande Vitesse can travel between stations at an average speed of more than 170 mph. In late December, China claimed that its new rail link between Wuhan and Guangzhou is the world’s fastest, averaging 217 mph. The U.S. has just 457 miles of high-speed routes; Japan has 1,360 miles; and France 1,180.

1,200-1,800 Energy requirements, in Btu, to transport a passenger one mile by high-speed rail, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Conventional trains consume 2,600 Btu per passenger-mile, while air travel uses 3,300 and cars 3,500. Last year the Obama administration committed $8 billion to national high-speed rail development.

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