3 Links I Love: Voting on the Future of MEX, Essential Air Service Saved, Killing the Train

Links I Love

This week’s featured link:
Lopez Obrador Commits to Unorthodox Vote on $13 Billion AirportBloomberg
The Mexico City airport saga continues. The incoming president promised he’d stop constructing the new airport (which is already a third built) and focus on expanding the existing one. Now he realizes that’s a terrible idea, but he can’t go back on a promise. So, he’s going to put it to a vote (something that isn’t orthodox at all in Mexico) so that he can place the blame elsewhere.

US DOT grants EAS waivers to 25 communitiesch-aviation
Remember all those Essential Air Service markets that were on the chopping block? They all got waivers. Surprise, surprise.

South Korea to shut down Incheon Airport high-speed railNikkei Asian Review
I feel like I’m missing something here. South Korea is shutting down a high speed rail line to the airport because people prefer buses. That is… something.

9 comments on “3 Links I Love: Voting on the Future of MEX, Essential Air Service Saved, Killing the Train

  1. For the Korean rail, it sounds like using high-speed rail for part of the journey and then switching to a “high-speed bus” (guessing that means few/no stops, not a 100 mph bus) for the last portion not only saves a bit of time, but is also over 1/3 cheaper. To me that’s a fairly rational reason to do the transfer.

    I agree with you, however, that other than inertia/habit it seems odd that Koreans would prefer buses over trains, but maybe I’m missing something. I’ve done redeye trips on long distance buses in South America that had lie-flat (angled) seats and service (with wine, liquor, movies, and hot meals) that would rival some airline business class service from 10-15 years ago.

    1. Also because the high-speed option saves 10 minutes at most (43 vs 53) compared to the regular train service, costs a few dollars more and runs once an hour or every 30 minutes at best. The regular service operates every 6 minutes roughly.

      If you can transfer before Seoul Station as most probably can-it makes the option even worse in terms of time.

  2. Is there any precedent anywhere for putting multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects to a referendum? I’m drawing a blank.

  3. First a distinction should be made about the “high speed rail.”

    The AREX Line to/from Seoul Station both Express and All Stop train still runs. This runs very frequently.

    Nobody in Seoul would actually take the very few KTX trains offered to get to the airport. Just not something anyone would even think to do.

    The actual KTX line the article mentions is for long distance service. Overall, it was offered at very random times during the day. So, for most travelers, it’s easier to just go to Seoul Station or Gwangmyeong Station on one of hundreds of trains running all day and night. And from there they can even check in at city terminals etc.

    And while I think the author wrote about “shaving 14 minutes off the journey,” Koreans don’t think that way. They just think the simple way. So, for most in the far flung areas of the country, that is to take the bus.

    In areas like Busan, Daejeon etc….the airports there are already expanding service a lot, so the demand for them to go allllll the way to Seoul is decreasing.

    1. I agree, the article is highly misleading, starting with the first sentence: “A high-speed rail line connecting Seoul to Incheon International Airport will cease operation next month after just four years of service”. From what I’ve read elsewhere, the rail line is not high-speed to begin with, and also it is not being shut down. What is being shut down is the service of high-speed trains on a regular-speed line.

      When the airport line was connected at Seoul to the high-speed network 4 years ago, the thinking was to run through service of high-speed trains from all over the country to the airport. However, since the trains had to run at regular speeds between Seoul and the airport, there was not much benefit of through service compared to connecting at Seoul; combined with the low frequency of the through service, ridership was low. This is why through service is being discontinued. And, without through service, there’s really no reason to run high-speed rolling stock between Seoul and the airport, so that service is being removed as well.

      As far as I understand, the comment on buses is only tangentially relevant: high-speed buses are competitive with regular-speed rail for travel between Seoul and the airport. Interesting, but not too surprising.

      Overall this is a newsworthy item, but not as sensationalist as the article makes it sound.

  4. The Incheon high-speed rail sounds a little bit like the Bangkok airport train. About 4 years ago they stopped running the express nonstop airport trains (about $5, later $3, which were every 30-60 minutes to two alternating terminals, one of which was nowhere useful), as everyone just took the local trains ($1), which ran every 10 minutes or so and took only 4 minutes longer than the fast ones.

  5. Denver just started a direct to airport rail line that ironically provides worse service than the bus it replaced in many cases. There used to be a shuttle bus from the suburbs to the terminal. Now the same trip on rail requires a train change and takes 40 minutes longer. Both train and bus were subsidized so they stopped running the bus to encourage train use. So more private car trips to the airport result.

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Cranky Flier