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Posts Tagged ‘California

Do you know the cost to San Jose?

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After cost projections for the California high speed rail project rose to USD98 billion in 2011, vociferous public and political outcry forced officials to reassess. They cut the budget to USD68 billion by eliminating high-speed service between Los Angeles and Anaheim and between San Jose and San Francisco, wrote Ralph Vartabedian.

California HSR rail authority chief executive Jeff Morales said that those changes were a normal part of such a big project and that he could not rule out additional changes.

[$68-billion California bullet train project likely to overshoot budget and deadline targets, Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times, 24 Oct 2015]

[…] “Nobody can sit here and tell you what something like this is going to cost over a 20-year period,” Morales said. “Any big program like this is loaded with challenges. The day you hear me say I am comfortable is the day I am not telling you the truth or the day I have deluded myself.”

Network Rail Control Period 5, 'E and P spend'

Last week, Network Rail’s chief executive Mark Carne told the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee that electrification of the Great Western Main Line was now estimated at between £2.5 bn and £2.8 bn — compared to £874 million at the start of 2013. He added that there would be more “bad news” in the forthcoming Peter Hendy review of the company’s modernisation programme.

[Network Rail’s new line meets schedule, Gill Plimmer, Financial Times, October 26, 2015,

[…] Tony Travers, director of the London School of Economics, said the budget inflation was “shocking evidence” of underlying problems at Network Rail. “This should terrify the Treasury if they look at even the starting cost of High Speed 2 [the proposed new £50bn railway line],” he added.

Written by beleben

October 26, 2015 at 10:40 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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‘A lot of money to be made’

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In December 2012, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme spoke to railroad historian Richard White about California’s proposed high speed passenger rail project. He thought that, if built, CalHSR would likely turn out to be an environmental and economic disaster, but ‘there was a lot of money to be made in contracting’.

So, from Mr White’s standpoint, CalHSR is a sort of Pacific equivalent of Britain’s HS2. Mr White went on to suggest that most high speed rail systems constructed worldwide were heavily subsidised, and not something to emulate.

There may well be a case for investment in California passenger rail, but that is not the same thing as saying that the current CalHSR concept should be progressed. Apart from the TGV Paris-Sud Est/Méditerranée, it’s doubtful whether most of the French TGV lines are economically or financially viable. Both the German and French railways have run up multi-billion euro debts from high speed construction, and the Spanish AVE is very lightly used. The Chinese system, easily the world’s biggest, is riddled with corruption, and dodgy reverse-engineered technology.

Written by beleben

January 3, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Indiscernible lightness of being

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David Begg's Biz4HS2 web banner: 'CREATE 1 MILLION JOBS, SUPPORT High-Speed Rail'

Constructing a high speed railroad between Los Angeles and San Francisco would at best have a marginal impact on Californian economic growth. So reported the Los Angeles Times on July 13, in an article that recounted UCLA senior economist Jerry Nickelsburg‘s evaluation of growth rates of locales served by Japan’s Shinkansen.

Construction of Japan’s vaunted bullet train began in the mid-1960s, and it did not generate higher economic growth or additional jobs, according to the study.

Nickelsburg examined the growth rates of cities and regions served by Japan’s system, compared to the nation’s overall rate of growth, and found that the introduction of high-speed passenger service had no discernible effect.

The analysis looked at nearly a dozen urban and rural prefectures and found no evidence that the introduction of bullet train service improved tax revenues, which was used as a proxy for local gross domestic product. In one case, one region without high-speed rail service grew just as quickly as a similar region with it. The study examined economic activity over a 30-year period.
On Thursday, the California High-Speed Rail Authority responded to the study by referring questions to UC Merced lecturer Dipu Gupta, who said he disagrees with the central conclusion that the project would not spur growth. Gupta, an architect and urban designer, said high-speed rail benefits an economy as a whole, so comparing growth rates of specific cities misses its ability to “lift all boats.”

Nickelsburg agrees that transportation investments tend to lower costs, create markets and improve efficiency, but that is truer for freight improvements. Japan’s bullet train lowered the transportation costs for commuters, giving rise to the legendary Japanese “salaryman,” who commuted from a high-density apartment complex to a dreary city job aboard a crowded bullet train. California bullet train enthusiasts have a much different vision, foreseeing a day when the Central Valley becomes a more vibrant economic center that is better connected to the Bay Area and Southern California.

Nickelsburg also raises the possibility that the train will create rather than contain urban sprawl. By increasing the potential for workers to live far from their employment, it would not create new jobs but move them to the Central Valley.

Mr Nickelsburg’s conclusions would seem to tally with the experience of places like East Kent and the Mezzogiorno. Being connected to high speed passenger rail may carry relatively little weight in the totality of socio-economic regional atout. There may be (possibly unintended) consequences, with changes to a region’s perceived connectivity resulting in periurban sprawl, or redistribution of economic activity from a neighbouring region.

Great Central dual purpose interconnector (Beleben, Jan 2012) The British government's 'electric spine' proposal, July 2012

In the British context, Mr Nickelsburg’s findings would seem to support versatile infrastructure facilitating improved freight and passenger movement, such as a reactivated Great Central line.

Written by beleben

July 24, 2012 at 8:28 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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