If Spain Can Do It, We Definitely Can
In a joint presentation to the CHSRA last month, a delegation of rail companies from Spain described their experience with ambitious construction and expansion of HSR. Renfe (Spain’s national train operator) provided the most striking slides, showing that Spain and California are kindred spirits, both equally capable of building HSR to provide their citizens convenient, non-oil-based transportation options.
As you can see in the comparison below, the population profiles of the two are similar, yet California has a much more robust economy, again shattering the myth that we can’t afford HSR. Further, California’s population is heavily concentrated in the metro areas that HSR will serve (and California is actually smaller than Spain). Along with the millions from more rural areas who will be able to access HSR through feeder trains and buses, the critical mass of a customer base is there (and will only increase along with airfares, oil prices, and the state’s population).
By 2010, Spain will have the largest HSR network in the world. Even if China one day surpasses the figure, this puts California’s wrangling over whether to build any HSR to shame.
As you can see, very few of the early adopters of the Madrid-Seville AVE route were previous train passengers (and the 34% induced demand represents a stimulated economy):
Overnight, the Madrid-Seville line positively transformed the travel landscape as the modal market share for trains went from 14% to 54%:
The rest of the world is leading, and Spain is truly visionary. It is high time for California to show the rest of the United States that HSR is as viable here as it is elsewhere, including less affluent economies.