August 30, 2013
Residents of the United States really don’t like travelling by train, reports The Economist. Stats abound to prove how different US train travel is from elsewhere:
When you adjust for population, the disparity is even more shocking: per capita, the Japanese, the Swiss, the French, the Danes, the Russians, the Austrians, the Ukrainians, the Belarussians and the Belgians all accounted for more than 1,000 passenger-kilometres by rail in 2011; Americans accounted for 80. Amtrak carries 31m passengers per year. Mozambique’s railways carried 108m passengers in 2011.
Aside from the obvious explanation (America is just so darn big) there are a number more interesting, including most of the track being owned by freight companies, meaning passenger trains get second class status, often delayed by their freighty competitors for trackspace. And, inevitably, train travel has become political, with President Obama backing investment in high speed, thus making opposition to rail the natural Republican stance.
August 19, 2013
Were you frustrated by airline delays or airport inefficiency this summer? I know I was. But any problems surely pale in comparison to those facing the Chinese flier, if this report by Time magazine is anything to go by. The stats speak for themselves:
According to data provider FlightStats, all of the world’s 10 worst airlines for timekeeping in June were Chinese. FlightStats also notes that China’s airports — also operated by the state and bereft of customer-friendly facilities like decent restaurants or shopping — are prime offenders for tardiness. A paltry 18% of flights from Beijing’s Capital International Airport took off on time this June — the worst record of any major airport anywhere in the world. And Beijing is far from China’s only laggard. No. 2 on the FlightStats’ global offenders list? Shanghai.
The reasons for this woeful state of affairs apparently include military dominance of airspace (restricting the freedom of passenger planes), the inertia of a small number of government-owned dinosaur airlines (three firms alone account for 80 per cent of the market), and overly-stringent air traffic control restrictions. But passengers are fighting back – impressive in this most restrictive of regimes – and in July an entire planeload of frustrated travellers simply refused to disembark upon landing because of being delayed for so long.
The chance of positive change currently seems to be slim, however: according to Chinese media reports, airports are attempting to avoid angering travellers by… simply not announcing delays at all.