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If there were no railroads, would it make sense to build them today?

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It helps of course that out in the deep countryside in China, many people are still extremely poor and houses and land are extremely cheap, so even if you end up paying well above the market value, it's still very cheap.

That actually strikes me as kind of terrible. It's great for the government, but that really means that the people who need the money most can lose their homes and property for virtually nothing. It just means that the Chinese government can be that much more cavalier about taking away the homes of the impoverished.


Also, if anyone wants to hear more about China and the peoples' rights:

Edited by cpotisch

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What is the advantage of railroads in bulk freight?


I always assumed the main advantage was in staffing costs. If you put freight on trucks you need a driver on every truck. On a train, a smaller number of people can move a far larger load.


But will self-driving trucks disrupt that?


If self-driving trucks become commoditized, which I assume that at some point they will, which traffic will railroads lose and which traffic can they cling onto.


I think intermodal might be at risk because trucks don't need to wait for a schjedule but can just start the journey as soon as they are ready to go.


Coal and minerals and things may stay with the railroads because schedules and speed are less important. But is that enough for the railroads to survive on?


Freight trains are hundreds of cars long and much more efficient than trucks. They can be tens of thousands of feet long, so you'd need a hell of a lot of trucks to get even close to the capacity of one freight train. And then you take traffic into account (including the traffic that hundreds of migrating 18-wheelers would cause). My point is, freight trains are by far the cheapest way to haul cargo, whether the alternative is self driving or not.

The barges on the rivers are the cheapest way to haul bulk products. Unfortunately, rivers like The Mississippi and the Ohio don’t run everywhere!


True but how much of that fact is due to Federal government expenditure on said rivers & canals? Without that much of the current barge network wouldn't be possible.

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