Surface Transportation: Roads, Aviation and Rail

Free «Surface Transportation: Roads, Aviation and Rail» Essay Sample

The transport sector is vital for the economy of any state. Each passing day people need to get to different spots of a city in order to accomplish their daily tasks. Not only is transportation necessary for ensuring that citizens move from one place to another, but also for delivering goods and services to different locations. Indeed, transportation is critical for people, goods and services to reach their destinations within the set time. Consequently, without an efficient transport network, people’s life becomes much less convenient, and certain things become impossible. Without transport, people would be unable to reach other cities or distanced locations, while services and goods may not be delivered on time or even become obsolete upon reaching the destinations. It is, therefore, imperative that there exists an efficient transport system to counter such challenges. Transportation modes include roads, rails, and aviation. Surface transportation, is the most commonly used, as it is comparatively affordable, always available and mostly safe. However, people use the mode of transport that is most convenient for them. For example, a person living and working in a city would find road or rail the most convenient modes of transport. In contrast, an individual who lives in one state and works in a different one, could find aviation faster and more convenient. Naturally, the different modes of transportation have different costs depending on how their construction and vehicles used for it, as well as on the cost of the mode maintenance. The project aims at comparing the costs, capital, and cash considerations of aviation, road, and rail modes of transportation. This will be done by analyzing the roads, rail, and aviation separately for a deeper understanding of the costs involved in every sphere.

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Depending on the state of the economy and personal financial position, people choose the mode of transportation that best suits them. The cost of transporting via different modes depends on many factors, such as design, complexity of construction, material, distance covered, speed, and others. The costly ways of transportation often help to save money and time in the long run. For instance, the ability of a mode of transport to deliver certain goods often justifies the cost of transportation; whereas it might cost more to transport perishable goods e.g. fruits and vegetables through aviation, this approach is cost effective as compared to other modes that may delay the delivery of the goods, hence rendering them useless and causing loss to the entrepreneurs.

The difference in the cost of various modes of transportation begins at the design stage, where the parameters for each model of vehicle determine the cost. Not only construction matters, but also looking at the mechanisms of a transport is necessary for figuring out the cost of a certain mode of transport. If the cost of constructing a vehicle was the only factor being taken into account, aviation would not have been more expensive than road and rail, since the only thing being constructed would be the linking between the airports, which are located at a distance of thousands of miles away from each other. The mechanism of transporting goods, people and services also plays a vital role in determining the difference in the cost of traveling. Mechanism of transportation relates to the kinds of vehicles including airplanes, trains, and other. For instance, rail construction presents a more expensive kind of transport; yet, regarding the traveling costs, it is the cheapest. Whereas constructing a kilometer of a road might cost the Government approximately $1m, the construction of a rail costs three times more.


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Finally, luxury is also an important factor in the determining the cost of a mode of transport (Cantarelli, Flyvbjerg, Molin, & van Wee, 2010). When one seeks to find a peace of mind, free from the noises that come from the surrounding and the disturbances of traffic and congestion, the best mode of transport will be either rail or aviation. To sum up, in order to count the exact cost, capital and cash considerations of a certain mode of transport, several factors have to come to play, including construction, maintenance, mechanism, time, and the factor of luxury.


The construction of a road is relatively expensive as compared to constructing the pavement of an airport. Construction of a kilometer of a road costs between $0.8m and $1m (Mulyono, Parikesit, Antameng, & Rahim, 2010). The materials required and the machinery to carry out the task is what makes constructing a road to be that expensive. In addition, skilled personnel is required and involves high qualified engineers, surveyors, and architects, whose job is well-paid and thus expensive. The process also takes time, as the construction involves several stages that have to be cured to attain particular strengths before proceeding on to the next step. From the point the contractor takes hold of the site for the commencement of work and to the point of handing over of the complete project, the road construction process shall be controlled with all the scrutiny. The consulting engineering firm must approve the incurred cost before releasing the payment. The costs that the contractor puts in the project include raw materials, the salary of workers, compensating any claims made and running and maintaining the machines until completion of the project. In cases where excavations have been done, quarry fill materials also have to be brought to the site for filling the void before putting a strong base, which comprises of hand packed stones. These processes are labor intensive and as thus, workers have to be readily available. In addition, fuel costs for running the machines including backhoes, graders and compactors are also part of the costs that are added while counting the cumulative total for constructing a road (Mulyono et al., 2010). ome instances occur whereby the road passes through people’s private properties, and this also prompts compensation if the road’s plan cannot be altered to avoid such areas.

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Maintenance of a road network varies in costs depending on the level of damage caused to a road regularly. For instance, motorists have an obligation to pay for the repair costs of damaged sections of the road. The cost of maintaining a road network must be less as compared to that of constructing an entirely new road. However, the cost is not permanent, since the reasons for repairing the roads vary greatly. For example, earthquakes are known to cause massive damages to road networks, which happens often and involves an expensive repair. In contrast, the repairs required by the regular traffic loads that deform the road are comparatively smaller. The cost of repairing a road is usually distributed in a way that makes everyone who uses the road pay (Cantarelli et al., 2010). Motorists are charged for the road repair, and then trickle the cost down to the passengers and owners of the goods that are to be transported. Those whose goods have been charged must increase the prices in turn. As a result, consumers are forced to dig deep into their pockets to obtain the goods. In that manner, the citizens contribute towards the repair and maintenance of roads. In comparison to other modes of transport, maintenance of roads seems to be the costliest one. In contrast, railroads serve for decades before they require to be repaired, since their surface is not made of the same material as that of a road. Airports, on the other hand, are constructed using the same materials that the road do, but with thicker layers, since they have to resist more loads as compared to the road. However, airport pavements are not exposed to the varying environmental conditions and loads, which could destroy them gradually. As such, the costs of repairing and maintaining airport pavements are slightly lower (Mulyono et al., 2010). Another reason for this is that airport does not stretch for kilometers, unlike the roads; hence the cost of repair and maintenance only refers to a small area.

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Vehicles are mainly used on roads for transportation. The cost of a car is lower as compared to that of airplanes and trains. In this respect, it is a common knowledge that it will cost less to travel using a road than by a plane or by train (Mulyono et al., 2010). The fuel consumed by cars is also cheaper as compared to that of rails and airplanes. The only shortcoming of using vehicles is that they more often get into accidents, which are at times fatal.

Unlike cars, airplanes and trains have over the years proved to be safe to travel with. However, the instances of accidents involving airplanes and trains are mostly fatal. Installing speed governors in vehicles to limit the drivers from going beyond a certain speed is one of the measures that help to reduce accidents. In addition, punitive actions for reckless driving are set to ensure that all the road users adhere to the safety precautions while driving. Also, the transit goods service providers who violate the recommended cargo are punished, which is aimed at saving the roads from destructions and the need for repair. In general, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the citizens are not exploited in overpaying for transportation (Cantarelli et al., 2010). The government can help its citizens by lowering the cost of energy, thus ensuring that the road users do not have to pay more for transportation. The cost of energy depends on the world market, but the government can always invest in other forms of energy, such as solar power and geothermal energies, to keep it save and provide a cheaper fuel energy to its citizens.

Time is another vital resource that cannot be overlooked in the transport sector. Transportation was brought about and developed into what it is today because of the need to manage time properly. There was a need to have people and goods in a particular place at a particular time, and failing to deliver those goods would cause numerous problems. The perishable goods, which include fruits, vegetables, and flowers, are the most dependent on the resource of time, otherwise they become obsolete upon arrival to their destinations. In this case, it should be noted that road transport is the slowest mode of transportation when compared with other modes (Mulyono et al., 2010). Airplanes are the fastest, followed by trains, and vehicles that use roads come last. In the transportation of perishable goods, therefore, airplanes will serve best. Indeed, a car will take at least six hours to cover a distance of 500 kilometers, whereas an electric train would take one hour. An airplane, on the other hand, would take just 45 minutes to cover the same distance (Adler, Pels, & Nash, 2010). Travelling by road becomes cheaper in this instance, since one would take more time as compared to the other modes. Emergency meetings or services are also not facilitated by using a road, since it will take more time before reaching the needed location, hence the need to use other modes.

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The factor of luxury is also crucial in discussing the costs consideration of the modes of transportation. Traffic congestions and the state of roads contribute substantially towards determining whether the transportation by road is costly or not. Traffic congestion leads to the loss of time and fuel, which is always undesirable. Any loss of time and fuel is usually trickled down to consumers, concerning the cost of travel. Traffic congestions are not witnessed in railway or aviation modes of transportation, hence making them more luxurious as compared to the road traveling. This fact explains the reason why prominent people of any society choose not to use roads, but instead airplanes or trains for traveling (Wensveen, 2015). In addition, the services offered in airplanes are also classical and rare to be found in road travels; therefore, aviation becomes more luxurious than other modes.

Another determinant of cost, capital, and cash in the road support is the transportation and logistics laws. The laws were enforced and made stiff to control the road users. For instance, the law about the heavy transport was implemented with the purpose of restricting the weight loads on trucks as a measure of preventing road damages. Those who violate these regulations are to be prosecuted and assigned the correspondent fines. The fines are then channeled for the maintenance and repair purposes. The laws have reduced road destruction, thereby saving the government from spending extra billions of dollars.


The cost of constructing an airport depends on what the airport is meant to handle. Constructing the airports, which can handle the largest airbuses, categorized as A-380, would range from $1 billion to $4 billion (Wensveen, 2015). It means that the construction of an airport is expensive as compared to a road network within a small area or town. In addition, it needs to be considered that an airport of the largest magnitude should have a fuel terminal, a tower with the latest radar and modern radio systems. An emergency rescue team has to be present too, which requires additional financing. The airport must also have an aircraft repair facility, fully packed with the crew to help in case of an emergency or mainly to provide service for the airplanes before taking off and after landing. Moreover, the emergency plan will involve the federal government airports that link international boundaries and can be a ground for contrabands and people with malicious motives who may try to get into the country illegally. The presence of the federal government will ensure there is security control in case of such contingencies, and this will protect the country from the attacks from enemies. A host of other contracts has to be in place for a variety of services, which are greatly needed by the travelers and workers of the airport.

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The construction of an airport is very similar to that of a road. The airport must have a landing, which is the central component of the airport. The landing is a pavement made of similar materials to that of a road (Mulyono et al., 2010). However, the thickness of the layers of the pavement is what varies and contributes to the high cost of constructing an airport. More materials are needed, more fuel energy is required to run the machines on the site, and more labor is needed, since it covers a larger stretch as compared to a road, which is narrower but longer. The cost of constructing an airport pavement thus becomes much more than that of constructing a road per unit area (Wensveen, 2015). The first argument is that constructing a road costs much more as compared to constructing an airport because of the longer stretch that the road covers. However, with a closer examination, it is evident that constructing an airport is much more expensive per unit area than constructing a road or a railway, since more materials are needed, more skilled workers required and more energy is spent.

Once an airport is established, the challenges of maintenance become inevitable. However, maintenance cost is lesser than that needed for a road. The reason for this is that from the design of the airport pavement, the expected load is put into consideration, and during the construction of the pavement, the requirements of the design are based on the latter. Damage to the airport pavement is thus a rare case, unless there are external factors like earthquakes that may damage the pavement layer. The airplanes are the ones that need constant checks for safety, hence the airport authorities incur more in maintaining the airplanes as compared to the pavements. As compared to cars and trains, airplanes need a close supervision to function as expected. The costs incurred in maintaining the airplanes is what makes traveling by airplanes more expensive as compared to trains or cars (Cantarelli et al., 2010). The skills needed in the sector are also costly and contributes to traveling by airplanes being relatively expensive. The pilots must be professionally trained, and the training is quite expensive, as to teach one pilot, the government needs to spend near half a million dollars. The traveling crews are also extremely important: they help in tendering to the passengers and responding to all their needs. All these factors combined make traveling by airplanes quite expensive. The distances that airplanes cover is another factor contributing to the high traveling costs. Finally, the safety of the mode of transport also makes it a little bit more expensive as compared to that of vehicles and trains: unless there is a technical problem, no accidents can be witnessed while using an airplane.

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Time as a critical factor can be addressed most efficiently by airplanes. Because planes can deliver goods and services within the required time, their owners use the advantage to charge more as compared to the cost of using a road network or a railway network. Its ability to enable a person to move from continent to continent within hours makes it the best transportation mode concerning linking up the world and making is look like a small village. If you observe it critically, you will realize that planes are the most effective in responding to emergencies that call for quick actions, which is often worth paying extra for. Airplanes provide the much needed assistance, saving lives and property. In the event of natural disasters, e.g. hurricanes, earthquakes and storms, road transportation is hindered, as well as rail transportation. The only mode left to help save lives and cater for the people’s needs is by airplanes (Wensveen, 2015). It is therefore morally wrong to say that the mode is expensive, as it saves a lot in times of dire need. However, the luxury associated with air travel makes it cost more as compared to other modes of transportation. Except for landing and taking off, the rest of the journey is usually characterized by the comfort that leaves one yearning for more travel by airplanes. However, as compared to a standard gauge railway, the comfort is relatively the same.

Finally, the legislative amendment on transportation and logistics laws to aviation have affected the cost of operations. For instance, the law on aviation emission and noise has been passed and has subscribed aviation to act responsible for solutions. The air and noise pollution caused by planes has been addressed in the aviation taxation as the Act of Corporate Social Responsibility, expected form every corporate companies. In addition, another regulation was implemented to protect the passenger’s welfare. This includes compensations on flights cancellation, flight delays and lost luggage. As a result, the cost of operation, initial capital and cash flow of many aviation companies has been affected adversely.


Rail offers a faster transportation of goods and services and passengers as compared to the road. Railways were constructed for transporting goods majorly. However, due to the dynamism brought by globalization, the need to incorporate the transportation of people has become obvious. Before the realization that railways could be used for transporting passengers, the speed of trains was relatively slower than that of cars. As a result, many people were dependent on road network for moving from one place to another. Railways presented a clear record of accidents and as such, development of fast moving trains to transport people was quickly put forth. In the present world, the cost of constructing a railway greatly depends on the speeds required. As a matter of fact, the higher the speed of the train, the more it will cost to construct the rail. High-speed railways are those with a capacity to allow trains with a maximum speed of 250 km/h or even more. Railways constructed for speed trains costs an average of $30m per kilometer. However, railways build for transportation of goods count for a lower speed and cost from $5m to $10m (Cantarelli et al., 2010). The costs will increase depending on the number of bridges that are expected on the railway line. The construction of numerous bridges and complex building designs tend to escalate the cost of construction. In comparison to the cost of construction of a road, railways are by far more expensive, but they are less expensive in construction costs per unit area as compared to airport pavements. The disparity seen is in the materials used for construction, the technology applied to the construction and the skilled labor needed. Due to the extreme load expected for a railway, its base has to be robust enough to withstand the deforming. The steel to be used has to be of the highest quality to reduce instances of repair from breaking steel bars. The cost of constructing an underground railway line is much higher as compared to that needed for constructing grade railways (Adler, Pels, & Nash, 2010). Stabilizing the ground to withstand the heavy machinery that will be passing on a daily basis is another factor that makes construction more expensive. By using stiffness columns and grouting the ground beneath the tunnel, a railway can pass to the underground. However, it is these technologies applied that make its construction extremely expensive.

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Owing to the use of the best technologies available, the railway can withstand the heaviest loads and perform its function of transporting goods for over a hundred years without repair. The design life of a railway is far much longer than that of roads and airport pavements. The high cost incurred in constructing a railway line makes traveling by rail a little more expensive as compared to traveling by road; however, it is relatively cheaper when compared to traveling by airplanes. Maintenance of railways does not involve too many finances and is performed every few years unless natural disasters strike.

Rail mode of transportation is safer as compared to road transportation but slightly less than aviation. The number of deaths caused by trains in the last decade stood at 0.43 per billion passenger miles, whereas that for cars was 7.3, which is quite high, and the safest mode of transport was aviation, which stood at 0.07(Adler, Pels, & Nash, 2010). The major advantage of rail transport over road and aviation is that it can be used to transport as much weight as possible. Road transport is usually limited by tonnage, whereas airplanes have to maintain a certain weight to be able to float in air. Despite the fact that it is costly to transport goods by railways, in the long run, it becomes reasonable, as no cost will have to be set aside for the repair of roads due to damage from transporting heavy loads on it. Initially, a bullet train was invented, and it was able to cruise through and reach it destination within no time. The invention has proved critical in trying to keep up with the factor of time. Sometimes people look at the time they need to reach a certain destination as opposed to the amount they will have to pay. As such, the time becomes more precious, and railway transport has come out to save people in this case. Besides, the luxury associated with rail travel is equal to that of air travel. Indeed, rail travel is more convenient and affordable than air and road transport. Railway lines are smooth and without steep sections, and this makes it a very comfortable mode of transportation (Adler, Pels, & Nash, 2010). The comfort and luxury associated with rail transport make it slightly expensive as compared to road transport.

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The transportation and logistics laws also affect the rail transport. For instance, the laws on Railway accident ensure the railway companies observe the law safety measures recommend by the government. Therefore, the rail companies spend extra in the process of implementing safety measures to prevent and reduce railroad accidents.

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