Government subsidies for passenger train systems are a common practice in many economies around the world, with France and the United Kingdom leading the way in terms of funding. In 2021, the French National Railway Company received 18.5 billion euros from the treasury, up from 13.7 billion in 2016. This increase was attributed to deficits and investments financed by loans. Meanwhile, the UK provided 20,346 million pounds sterling in government support for the railway industry, but only a small portion of this went towards passenger operations.
In contrast to these subsidies, Amtrak has been receiving $50 billion in funding since the 1970s in the US. However, despite this support, railway services around the world continue to face challenges. For example, a comparison of passenger rail transport worldwide revealed that only 36 of these services recover their operating expenses through passenger fares alone.
Furthermore, train travel in Europe is often significantly more expensive than flying, with some routes being up to 30 times more expensive than their corresponding flights. A study by Greenpeace found that regulatory differences between air and rail travel contribute to these price disparities. In fact, on over 79 out of 112 analyzed routes, flights were cheaper than trains.
In Mexico, Ferrocarriles Mexicanos (Ferromex) stands out for its income from operating a passenger service with The Chepe, which runs from Sinaloa to Chihuahua and offers both lower-cost options for locals and tourism services. However, income from operating passenger services varies significantly across different train routes within Mexico.
Overall, while public subsidies may be necessary to support railway services as public goods and reduce greenhouse gas emissions