Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 01:13:26 AM EST
A quick look at some recent developments in Passenger Rail.
The franchise bidding for passenger train operating rights in Britain is a policy I refer to as a Demsetz auction (after the professor at UCLA who came up with the notion) and the recent assignment of the West Coast Main Line from Virgin Trains to First Group and the subsequent revocation of that award might illustrate the limitations of bidding with irreversible commitments and asset-specific knowledge.
In the United States, there have been a number of developments in state-supported Passenger Rail, including a promising private venture in Florida and faster running in Illinois and Michigan. Admittedly, 110 mph (180 km/h) isn't world-class speed, although it's compatible with the freight infrastructure and the short distances between middling-sized cities that aren't well served by buses, or by airlines at all.
A streamlined diesel train from the 1930s recently returned to the main lines for two round trips on the Burlington Route, Chicago-Galesburg-Quincy. The train went into service about the same time the Great Terror in the USSR and the pogroms in Germany and Romania got started, and the diesel that pulls it hit the rails after World War II had begun. Quite a thrill, riding a 75 year old train that's by law restricted to 79 mph (120 km/h) but obviously capable of more.