The Times is reporting Richard Branson wants a piece of California HSR:
Virgin Trains, which operates the West Coast Main Line in Britain, is bidding for a slice of President Obama’s multibillion-dollar upgrade of the American rail network, The Times has learnt.
Virgin is understood to be the only British company involved in the President’s plan to build high-speed rail links between key cities on the East and West coasts of the United States. Virgin has been asked to submit a proposal for developing this infrastructure and has held meetings with the new Administration in Washington.
They may be overstating this case dramatically – Obama doesn’t really have a “plan” to build HSR, at least not in any great detail. It would be interesting to know what they mean by “has held meetings with the new Administration” – it could be a basic “get to know you” fact-finding meeting or something more. But our own LA-SF route features in whatever it is Virgin is planning:
Virgin and other high-speed operators, such as SNCF, of France, are expected to work with the US Department of Transportation to develop its rail plans and then bid to operate individual services.
Virgin is keen on the Los Angeles to San Francisco route and also the East Coast line linking Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington. There are 30 return airline flights a day between Los Angeles and San Francisco and a high-speed train service could replace many of those, cutting carbon emissions. The journey would take less than three hours and voters in California have already agreed to raise $10 billion to start work on a line that would run from Sacramento, the state capital, to San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
I’ve always figured that SNCF and Virgin would be among the companies showing interest in operating our HSR line, so this is an expected development. That being said, I’m not sure that private operators are either necessary or desirable and have expressed my skepticism on this point ever since the first few posts on this blog. Public operators in France and Spain have done a good job running the system, as has Amtrak here in the US, and I’d prefer that any “profits” be given to expansion of the system and not to Richard Branson’s wallet.