Californian high speed train encounters new problems

Whilst the Judge did not grant the petition to stop the planned construction of a High Speed Train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, he did make the State work out a new financing plan to cover the full high costs of the project before they can issue the bonds they wanted to sell to pay for part of it.

High speed rail in the USA is highly contentious and becoming very expensive. Will construction get underway next year as planned? Will the state find new ways of paying the very big bill?

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  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Trains are now out of date. I loathe saying that. But it is true. Cars are much more convenient and, nine times out of ten, you get into the car anyway to drive to the station. For overseas, of course, a train is really out of the question. Air is the answer, however unpleasant.

    Playing Railroad Tycoon, I built a railway round California! Great fun! Difficult to get past the Rockies through to Salt Lake City…

  2. Bob
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    HS2 should be set up as a limited company and funded through bond issue, based on a 55,000 page prospectus.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 27, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

      HS2 is as dead as green “renewable” energy without the political support and pointless tax payer subsidy, exactly as they should be.

  3. Bert Young
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    If the same judgement applied to HS2 it would fail . Private capital and investment could not be attracted to this project for 2 main reasons 1) the projections made for its use and revenue are fallacious 2) the returns projected -adjusted for inflation , are not attractive enough . One would be very foolhardy to speculate on the outcome of an investment covering such a long period of time and the increasing competitiveness of other means of transport . In California the engineering involved has to contend with the unpredictable San Andreas fault line , in HS2 it has to contend with the willingness of a very shaky outcome with the public and the HoC .

  4. Neil Craig
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Also Musk’s Hyperloop concept has had wide acceptance there and would be considerably cheaper and faster than conventional “high speed” rail.

    Hyperloop and automated driving are 2 things which will make HS2 obsolete before it is completed.

  5. The PrangWizard
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Are you against High Speed trains everywhere? Have you ever used them in Europe?

    Reply I have travelled on high speed trains in France and Japan. I am not against them in principle. I am just against oens where the busienss case is very weak and where taxpayers end up with a huge bill as a result.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      I am not against them in principal either. I am in favour of them where they can compete on a level playing tax/subsidy field. Over the densely populated and small UK distances they are particularly daft.

  6. Lifelogic
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Which is likely to be cheaper a plane with two short bit of tarmac runways at each end with a few runway lights, a plane that can fly at 500MPH so perhaps doing 20 single journeys in one day. Or a train with 350 milies of new track, miles of security fencing, large numbers of staff, electric gantries, new trains, compulsory purchases, huge blight ……….

    Also if demand changes as is likely which is more easy to divert to productive use elsewhere? The planes or the 350 miles of fixed track?

    Which might cost less to maintain, which is quicker to implement and which causes less disruption?

    • Bazman
      Posted November 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      You have had these facts pointed out to you before.
      As well as the advantages of electrification of railways and the fact that bikes run on a persons excess calories?
      Why do you continue to rant the same propaganda without any common sense or sensible scientific evidence? Are you deluded or pushing some sort of agenda?

      • Edward2
        Posted November 27, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        Its just your opinion Baz. Who says you are right? Oh yes, its just you!

        You say, “You have had these facts pointed out to you before”.
        I suggest you look up “facts” and opinions in a dictionary, you get them confused.

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 27, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        Well I say it, simply because, with my Physics & Engineering training I know it to be true.

        If rail is so efficient why does it need such huge initial and ongoing subsidy & fiscal bias?

        If steak, chips and claret is such an efficient fuel system for cyclist then why no steak and chip powered cars and motor bikes? Engineers could surely improve on human muscles for efficiency (if they were actually very efficient in cyclists but they are not.

        True a car going at 15 miles per hour can be more efficient that one at 70 but not so popular with users.

        • Bazman
          Posted November 28, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          As pointed out to yet again bikes are powered by a persons calories whatever they have eaten almost all people eat to many calories. Are you claiming that we all eat the exact amount of food. Staggering when you consider the obesity problem in the UK and developed worlds. A human in crude mpg figures drinking vegetable oil which is similar to diesel on a push bike would attain nearly a 1000mpg. It is true however that peole do not drink vegetable oil like fuel and food production reduces the efficiency much more, but as pointed out who eats the exact amount of calories? To use this as reason for not cycling and encouraging car use is just retarded pseudo science. Should a machine that runs on direct food such as vegetable oil burned in some sort of fuel cell it would be incredibly efficient.
          Painting a cartoon of a car running on steak and chips fools no one except your simple self.

          • lifelogic
            Posted November 28, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

            @Bazman “a machine that runs on direct food such as vegetable oil burned in some sort of fuel cell it would be incredibly efficient”

            A diesel car do you mean? Why have a fuel cell producing electricity then motion as it is rather less efficient with current technology anyway.

          • Bazman
            Posted November 29, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

            A fuel cell is more efficient than an engine and I said if some futuristic technology allows the use of fuel oil instead of hydrogen or alcohol fuels. They do exist and have been used for generating power in buildings, but are to large and run to hot for cars. Miniaturisation may see this and maybe even in small electronics such a computer allowing you to recharge one like a cigar lighter a gas battery. Maybe there might even be one that you can stuff that uneaten burger into one day lifelogic giving you what you want, a steak powered machine using biological circuits. How absurd. Did anyone say it was going to be easy?

      • lifelogic
        Posted November 27, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        Cyclists do not run on excess calories, you have to eat more if you cycle more or one would waste away.

        Oh and the trains/track are also more vulnerable to unions, fallen trees, gantry failures etc. & terrorism

        • Bazman
          Posted November 28, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

          I’m sure if you rode you bike to work every day you would in no way ‘waste away’ LOL! You would stay the same overweight person you are I would wager and in fact as you would tell yourself you need extra calories to do this would in fact get more overweight. Get real.

      • Gordon
        Posted November 27, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        There is one rant on this topic and it isn’t Mr Redwood doing the ranting. We can disagree without losing civility surely?

      • Mark
        Posted November 27, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think those claims stand up too well in reality. London has many airports, and travel time between home and one of the airports will be rather less than travel time into Central London for many. There is no reason why flights cannot be operated with a ten minute check-in including baggage – this was standard on the UK’s domestic shuttle services – and even on the full hand search of all baggage and person that operated on the Belfast route the formal time was 20 minutes, though I managed it in as little as 6. Train only has an advantage if you wish to travel from city centre to city centre – or to parkway station. It seems likely that security theatre may apply to the train, as it is an obvious target.

        The rail network shut down for a day for fear of fallen trees recently, while the planes resumed flights as soon as the storm had passed through.

        The only domestic flights that run with intermediate hops are island flights. Otherwise, flights are always direct, and have the flexibility to tailor capacity to demand for the route.

        No wonder the wiki article section is politely headed with a warning to the author:

        Find supporting references or this will deleted shortly because possibly contains original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research may be removed.

        • Neil Craig
          Posted November 28, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

          If Ryanair can fly London to Glasgow for £10 (plus the excess taxes the government charge) whereas merely to pay interest on the investment HS2 tickets to Leeds will have to start at £300 (minus government subsidy) the question of which is, many time, more efficient is not a matter of debate.

          • lifelogic
            Posted November 28, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

            Exactly- but trains are a better way to divert taxes to friend of the powerful.

  7. Bob
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I see that David Cameron has made it clear to migrants from new EU accession countries that the sooner they get here the sooner they start “benefiting”.

    On your marks…get set…

    • Edward2
      Posted November 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Indeed Bob
      Question One:-
      How long have you been in the UK?
      At least 12 weeks, honest.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 27, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. The BBC keeps telling us that immigrants “pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits”. Well so what? We have to pay for schools, defence, hospital, etc. not just benefits.

      A person working on the minimum wage, with two children with perhaps elderly relatives in tow, perhaps some medical problems might well pay tax and NI of £3000 PA yet cost £20,000 -£50,000 in education, medical, housing and other services provided.

      It is not just people out of work who are a net cost on the state.

  8. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Will someone please answer me a simple question on high speed rail? If you treat construction costs and rolling stock costs as sunk costs – a very generous concession – do high speed trains actually make an operational profit? I’m not talking about economics or environment or social bullshit, I’m talking about straightforward financial calculations.

    If high speed rail cannot clear even this very low hurdle, there is no case for it.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink


      Not even with the very expensive tickets and the high road, fuel, taxes on cars and other transport are they likely to make a real profit.

      Track maintenance, staff, depreciation of rolling stock, vandalism, insurance, electricity are all rather expensive.

  9. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    If many can see these problems before they arise, then why can’t the few who take these projects forward : or perhaps they can.

  10. Mike Wilson
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    My schoolboy geography remembers the distance between LA and SFO as about 400 miles. How much is their high speed train estimated to cost? Based on ours at 50 billion for 200 miles – I assume theirs is 100 billion sterling?

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 27, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Good question $91Bn so £56Bn I see quoted on wiki. So about 50% cheaper than the UK per mile. Not that the cost will actually be £50Bn.

      Mind you they have much cheaper energy to do it with as less green crap.

    • acorn
      Posted November 27, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      800 miles to cost $68 billion dollars. It will be a bit slower than a TGV on the LA to SF 430 mile section, 170 mph. $55 dollars each way. Remember, Californians actually voted for this project and the funding by Bond issue. A level of democratic involvement that the UK citizen can only dream about. Not that Brits dream of anything higher than getting on X Factor or Strictly nowadays.

  11. boffin
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    One might think that were a better case for very fast trains in California than our non-case for HS2, but it has begun to look very messy already.
    The cruel irony is that a generation ago the US taxpayer funded the research which offered the way to overcome the fatal flaw inherent in the operation of rail links designed with a Victorian-era mindset (as current schemes continue to be). This has been disregarded, and the planners still attempt to cling the design concepts of 150 years ago with vast detriment to cost and safety.

    When those in high office start to play trains, bad things happen …. (words left out ed)

  12. Mike Wilson
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Where is the democracy in this? Okay, we elect politicians to make decisions – you can’t ask everyone about everything … but the scope and scale of government just grows and grows and grows.

    If the government says ‘right, we need a billion quid to build 25 new hospitals around the country – most people would say ‘fair enough’. (25 hospitals at £40 million each).

    But to say ‘right, we need 50 billion quid to build a railway most people in the country will never use and will not be able to afford to use’ – then I think we ought to be asked in a referendum.

    Government should have strict borrowing limits that cannot be ignored. There needs to be some sort of super-law that governments cannot change without consulting the people.

  13. Iain Gill
    Posted November 28, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    gives a fascinating insight into what the Califonians thought of the UK rail system towards the end of British rail, and gives a good view of many of the challenges of the UK system. interesting to compare with how things have changed since then.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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