Opposedly to public misconception, most of the energy is wasted not because of acceleration but because of resistance. And, despite the airplanes are extremely airflow-shaped, the laws of physics say that environment resistance grows as square low with speed, resistance ~ v^2. So, at very high speeds, resistance is pretty high anyway. Furthermore, once head penetrates the air in front of the vehicle, the long tail experiences no resistance. So, in my opinion, very long trains transport thousands of people for free, without spending additional energy. In total, they must waste 100 times less energy than airplane. Nevertheless, when I look at the prices, I start to see the opposite. E.g. Berlin-Geneva train costs at least 250 euros, the flight tickets start at less than 100. So, the market economy accounts the trains as resource wasters. Why?

closed as off topic by Karlson, mindcorrosive, Kate Gregory, choster, Stuart Feb 27 '13 at 16:18

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    Welcome to the travel.SE. While this is an interesting question its way off topic here. Please see the FAQ – Karlson Feb 27 '13 at 15:08
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    @Val. You have to consider the underlying support structure required for train operations to understand the costs in material, energy, personnel, as well as related speed of travel, so do your calculations and then you can probably post this question to skeptics.SE to get an answer. :) – Karlson Feb 27 '13 at 15:19
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    also, train wheels experience friction against the rails, so your physics is flawed – Kate Gregory Feb 27 '13 at 15:45
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    this question seems more about physics and economics than travel. – Stuart Feb 27 '13 at 16:19
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    I'm not representing anyone. There is way more to the cost of moving a person around than air resistance. Your replies make it clear that your question is "I'm right, aren't I?" and if that's the question, it's unlikely to be reopened. – Kate Gregory Feb 27 '13 at 16:47

Your question has more is place on stack exchange economy when it will exist. (And it starts with armchair physics.)

Still an interesting question.

I already asked myself this question, here are some thoughts:

Travel time is employee's time who need to be paid
The plane Berlin - Genova takes 1 h 45, the train 10 h.
During the flight, you are only taking 1 h 45 x the number of crew members.
During the train, you use 10 h x the number of crew members, maybe including night fees.

Plus, for the train you need a big rail infrastructure that is expensive to build and to maintain.
For the plane you need air, which is still free. (Maybe you pay somewhere the persons who designed air routes.)

Junction fees
For the railway you need to pay train stations and junctions, for the plane you need to pay airport fees.

For the train if the way is inter-countries, you need to split the bill between two or more companies, for the plane it's only the air company.

Occupancy rate
The only international long distance train i took was almost empty, maybe if there were full there could be cheap tickets (and/or vice-versa).
All of the few planes i took were always pretty full.

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    Also consider it's not only about cost, but pricing. Between Geneva and Berlin, the train seat can be sold to travelers from Geneva to Basel, Basel to Stuttgart, Stuttgart to Berlin, all of which are willing to pay 100 euros or so. So the company is not willing to sell the ticket for way cheaper. – Vince Feb 27 '13 at 17:07
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    I think that hiring pilots is much more expensive because they must be much more skilled and because they serve only 100 passengers whereas hired train driver time is divided among 10000 train passengers. That is, I have the suspected the same. The airliner pay mostly for the pleasure to steal the gasoline from our children whereas the eco-friendly railroad users suffer because of suboptimal infrastructure and because there is too few of them: trains are too short and empty. Thanks for making this explicit. – Val Feb 27 '13 at 17:51
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    10000 passengers on a train? On average 4 per meter, so trains are 2.5km long? – Bernhard Feb 28 '13 at 13:16
  • do you mean that counterbalancing the time with number of passangers is inappropriate? You've computed the crew fees without taking the number of passangers into consideration. Do you now say that you was correct and doing that would be a bad idea? – Val Mar 1 '13 at 7:25
  • An old question, I know, but you might add one additional point: Airlines do not pay taxes (VAT) on fuel, whereas railway companies do. – Berend Jan 9 '17 at 16:05

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