The Spain Train
We wrote this newsletter in January 2012
Sep 24, 2015
This newsletter was originally published January 17, 2012. It's still good today as a "group of Fresno politicians, businessmen, education, labor and economic development officials will leave on a nine-day trip to Spain, where they will look at various aspects of the Spanish high-speed rail system and how some of its best practices can be used for California’s bullet train."
We enjoyed very much reading about Spain's bullet train in the Sunday Bee. We just can't figure out how the Bee publishes this article on Sunday, then continues their editorial support of California high-speed rail on Monday.
Here are some excerpts from the article if you just want to read the condensed version:
Spain's system, however, was launched in conditions much different from what California is experiencing today. Political unity, a thriving economy and the spotlight of international events a world exposition in Seville and the Olympic Games in Barcelona all provided an impetus for Spain to embark on its high-speed journey.
Academics and analysts don't believe that even the busiest high-speed route between Madrid and Barcelona musters enough riders to cover its operating costs, much less the billions of euros invested to build the infrastructure over the past 20 years.
None of the Spanish high-speed rail routes has enough riders to make the system financially sustainable.
"There is no question whether it can cover its costs. It cannot," Bel said. "It actually has not recovered one single euro from the infrastructure investment."
And finally, this from the end of the article:
The article sounds just like the argument we're having in California: it costs too much, it doesn't pay for itself, ridership is low and we can't afford it in these economic times. After all that, the Bee endorses it anyway. Why bother sending a reporter all the way to Spain if you're not going to listen to the evidence he brings back?
Even the enthusiastic Spanish officials, however, are curious about the logic of starting in the sparsely populated middle of California. The environmental benefits won't be realized, they said, if the cities along the first line don't have enough people to generate ridership.
"You need to have either Los Angeles or San Francisco," said Pedro Pérez del Campo, environmental policy director for ADIF. "They should build it where it will have an impact so that people will support it."
Building the system in the first place has significant disruptive effects before any benefits can be realized, Pérez del Campo said.
"It can be a failure or a fiasco if it starts in two cities that aren't as well populated or if there isn't as much attraction," he said. "The lesson is to do it right the first time, or extending it will not be possible because the public won't be in agreement. The people here have been in agreement."
And we would also add that just about every writer in the McClatchy/Bee system has turned against California's high-speed rail: Dan Walters(It's Time to Kill Bullet Train Boondoggle); George Skelton(Hit the Brakes on the Bullet Train); and Bill McEwen(High-Speed Rail Project Should Slow Down).
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