Florida TV News Goes To Spain To Learn About HSR
Wouldn’t it be nice if California news outlets actually showed their viewers how HSR works in other countries, instead of giving airtime and ink to uninformed critics and NIMBYs who make HSR out to be some kind of alien and unfamiliar technology? That’s what one Florida TV news station, Orlando’s WFTV, did earlier this month. They sent reporters to Spain to learn first-hand how HSR actually works in practice.
I wish I could embed the videos, but you’ll have to go to WFTV’s page to see them. One of their reports, on cost and ridership, led the anchors to report – accurately – that Spanish HSR is a financial success, generating high ridership and covering its operating costs. The reporters explained why:
Just like Central Florida, Spain’s number one industry is tourism and the Spanish railway authority has agreements with airlines, cruise lines and travel agents to include high-speed train tickets at a discount.
“Any idea how many extra tourists Spain draws because of its investment in rail?” Rasmussen asked Sanchez.
“So the people, for instance, arriving from Mexico City in Madrid for a one week tour in Spain, they can get, directly, the tickets for the train, Madrid, Seville, for a cheaper price,” he said.
By 2020, Spain will spend half of its transportation budget, more than $160 billion, on rail, but managers say yearly operating costs are not subsidized by the government, because the system makes a small profit overall.
Eyewitness News noticed that passengers had a lot of space and plenty of legroom. The crew was welcomed on-board. Once inside the cockpit, Eyewitness News crews set up two ‘point of view’ cameras so you can experience 160 miles per hour from a front row seat.
Trains like it being considered by Florida are powered by 25,000-volt electric lines overhead. In Spain, they have a spotless safety record and are known for being on-time down to the minute; on the line between Madrid and Seville, passengers who arrive more than five minutes late get a full refund.
Eyewitness News compared going from Ciudad Real to Cordoba, which is the closest example of Orlando to Tampa, to see how long it takes. It took just 54 minutes, with one stop in between.
And a report on the jobs HSR will bring:
Now, leaders say it has created tens of thousands of jobs. Florida has been promised 23,000 jobs for the 90-mile line planned between Orlando and Tampa.
Executives with Spanish train maker Talgo say it’s possible. The idea is to have something like Talgo’s smaller factories in Florida, with local workers building the trains. Four-hundred-eight-five people work at the smaller Talgo factory, but experts say the jobs that come with high-speed rail aren’t limited to construction.
“It goes from blue collars to white collars. It’s a lot of engineering,” said Jose Uriarte, Bombardier Inc. “This requires a lot of safety equipment and technology, which comes close to military-safety standards.”
Obviously these aren’t in-depth reports. It is TV news, after all. But it’s refreshing to see a US news outlet going past all the bullshit spun by HSR critics here in the US and actually looking into real-life, operating high speed rail systems and look at the evidence to see how well it works.
It would be fantastic if KTVU or KABC would send a camera crew over to Spain or France or China to cover their HSR systems and show Californians just how well this system works. Put an official from RENFE on TV to explain that Spanish HSR covers its costs and doesn’t require subsidies. Find an American tourist on the TGV and get them to say “this is awesome, I can’t wait to have one back home!” Go to China and show people at work building tracks and trainsets.
The LA Times has gone down this path to some degree, publishing an article by freelance journalist Bruce Selcraig about the AVE trains in Spain. Unfortunately too many other journalists repeat the frames from HSR critics that the system will be too costly, that nobody will ride it, etc, without questioning these claims or even demanding any evidence.
Let’s hope that other California news outlets follow the LA Times’ and WFTV’s lead and start reporting on HSR as it actually exists, instead of giving more space to evidence-free and speculative criticisms.