New Evidence Shows Flaws in SNCF Plan for California HSR

Jul 11th, 2012 | Posted by

The recent Los Angeles Times story accusing the California High Speed Rail Authority of dismissing a proposal from SNCF, the French national rail operator, is still bouncing around despite the obvious flaws in the SNCF proposal. New evidence, however, shows that the SNCF proposal did not meet basic guidelines or even comply with state law and therefore was properly rejected by the Authority.

Stephen Smith at Market Urbanism is convinced “it ain’t lookin’ good for the CHSRA”:

So, what does all this mean? It means that the CHSRA very well might have been offered private funding for the plan, but turned it down because it didn’t fulfill desired political objectives of going through towns in the Central Valley onto the main trunk line (again: SNCF’s I-5 proposal would have connected Bakersfield, Fresno, etc., just through spurs rather than the main line, not on every single LA-SF trip). This would be okay if the CHSRA was public about it, but they stand accused – by the LAT and by David Schonbrunn – of covering it up. (Obviously it would also have been in Parsons Brinckerhoff’s interest to ditch the SNCF plan, and of course there are many people who have been employed both at PB and CHSRA.)

Smith is accusing the CHSRA of a coverup here, based only on a conversation with prominent HSR critic David Schonbrunn. That’s flimsy hearsay evidence, but Smith runs with it anyway. What’s really going on here?

As it turns out, the 2010 SNCF “proposal” was so riddled with flaws that it was clearly not deserving of further consideration. Sources familiar with the proposal have made it clear that SNCF was looking for a competitive advantage in getting the HSR contract, and in doing so submitted a proposal that violated state law and was not worthy of further discussion.

Most significantly, the SNCF proposal would have required the state to provide the company with a revenue guarantee. As has been made extremely clear by HSR critics and opponents in recent years, that is a clear violation of AB 3034 which explicitly forbids a revenue guarantee.

Other factors weighed heavily in the Authority’s decision – quite justifiable, in my view – to reject the SNCF proposal, which was not detailed and lacked key specifics. One of the keys for the Authority was the SNCF suggestion that an Interstate 5 alignment be used. The Authority believed, reasonably, that this would reduce ridership significantly by bypassing the at least 2 million residents of the San Joaquin Valley and therefore jeopardize operating revenues. That bypass proposal also violates AB 3034.

Sources also indicate that the “private investment” that the LA Times and Smith have reported SNCF pledged was not nearly as certain as the reports have made it seem and that no formal offer of private investment was ever made. Further, SNCF’s own creditworthiness was uncertain, with S&P downgrading SNCF in mid-2010 as a result of new European Union rules limiting government support for national rail operators.

CHSRA board chairman Dan Richard was prepared to list a series of other objections the Authority had to the SNCF proposal in a letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times. After all, it would only be fair for Richard to be granted the opportunity to respond to Vartabedian’s biased article. Unfortunately, the Times chose not to run Richard’s letter. This blog has obtained that letter, and it is reproduced in full below:

Dear Editor:

Over the past year, your reporters covering the High Speed Rail program have spun out one sensational story after another, invariably repeating critics’ charges uncritically and writing things that mostly turn out to be wrong. However, the latest example, “High Speed Rail Officials Spurned offer from French Company,” hits a new low.

First, it was strategically timed; your reporters asked for our comments on this item several weeks ago. They waited until after the vote on Friday in an attempt to reset the debate and again focus on the “deficiencies” of the High Speed Rail Authority.

Second, how in the world can one elevate the self-serving proposal of one company that would have had the state simply handing them the keys (with no offer of funding, by the way) into a serious policy question? SNCF’s proposal to take over the program would be the equivalent of the LA Airports Authority bringing in Airbus to construct the new terminals; don’t be surprised when the jetways don’t accommodate anyone else’s airplanes.

Third, your reporters might have noted that the bond measure authorizing construction of high speed rail specifically calls out cities that must be served. One can argue whether going up I-5 makes more sense (and it doesn’t) but there is the small matter that bypassing Central Valley towns raises serious legal questions along with environmental concerns.

Finally, and most notably, I was not a member of the Board during the time frame discussed in your story, but I am aware that there was significant controversy over SNCF in 2010, emanating from their role in deporting French Jews to death camps during WW II. The California Legislature passed Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield’s bill (vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger) to have barred the company from public contracts absent an apology and compensation. Your newspaper editorialized (“Echoes of the Holocaust“) on Nov 20, 2010 that: “Particularly distressing is the fact that the apology was apparently not prompted by regret. Rather, it seems to have been spurred by the company’s desire to win multibillion- dollar high-speed rail contracts in California and Florida.”

Today’s story ignores all of that controversy in an attempt to make the High Speed Rail Authority look incompetent or worse. Yet, it shouldn’t have been hard for your reporters to find this material in the archives. After all, one of them covered the issue at the time.


Dan Richard
Board Chair
California High-Speed Rail Authority

Combined with the other information I cited above, Richard’s letter makes it pretty clear that the SNCF proposal was simply not worthy of serious consideration. It also raises serious questions about why The Times chose to publish the story on the Monday after the big victory in the State Senate for HSR. It also further implicates SNCF as having sour grapes over the way their actions in the Holocaust were addressed by the state legislature and The Times editorial board.

Together, this new evidence provides more confirmation that the CHSRA was right to reject SNCF’s flawed proposal. But we already had all the information we needed to know theirs was a bad idea. The purpose of high speed rail is not to provide the fastest travel time possible between SF and LA. Its purpose is not to be built as cheaply as possible. Its purpose is instead to provide the people of California with a fast, safe, affordable, reliable way to get around the state in a post-oil world. HSR’s job is to move people. That means its tracks should go where the people are. Any proposal to bypass the Central Valley metropolises via I-5 is a proposal that doesn’t meet the core values or purpose of the system and should be rejected on that basis alone. As it turns out, that wasn’t the only reason why the SNCF proposal was rejected.

Personally I would love for SNCF to come back and offer another proposal along the lines of their 2009 analysis that showed the Highway 99 corridor to be sound. SNCF has a lot to offer California high speed rail, and could certainly use the revenue. Let’s hope that if they do try again, they follow the letter and the spirit of the law.

  1. Richard Mlynarik
    Jul 11th, 2012 at 21:33

    I am aware that there was significant controversy over SNCF in 2010, emanating from their role in deporting French Jews to death camps during WW II.

    You stay klassy, Dan “PB go-to boy” Richard.

    joe Reply:

    Mlynarik’s Law
    All Mlynarik comments contain a noun, a verb and reference PB.

    The LATimes Editorial

    Echoes of the Holocaust
    France’s national railway delivered Jews to the Nazis. It’s apologized, and now wants to bid on a high-speed rail project in California.
    November 20, 2010

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The problem now is not that state legislators were FUDding about it two years ago, but that Richard brings it up. It’s not relevant. More likely than not it was FUD in the first place circulated by a lobbyist for a competitor; to bring it up again is to deflect from the story of the proposal.

    joe Reply:

    The LATimes too – they also ran an editorial against the French company. Another stooge for the SNCF competitor?

    The timing is a joke. July 6 we voted on HSR. July 9 the truth came out – or something.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    It’s very sad to see this blog being manipulated by Dan Richards and his chums. Much like NARP is the sad mouthpiece for Amtrak…. “This blog has obtained that letter”…. Pulitzer prize candidate? No, I don’t think much investigative journalism was involved.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    It’s very sad to see this blog being manipulated by Dan Richards and his chums…

    Joke’s on them – without Robert Cruickshank’s allowing his comments section to basically be CHSRA opponents’ virtual water cooler, there’s no way in hell I’d ever have started looking into this story. So as much as I dislike that Robert is saying things that aren’t true (like that I only spoke to David Schonbrunn), I’m indebted to him for leading me to all my sources through his blog’s comments.

    joe Reply:

    Wow you guys formed the Mystery Inc Team. Who has the talking dog and which one of you wears the ascot?

  2. Alon Levy
    Jul 11th, 2012 at 21:47

    Robert, if you’re in touch with Richard, let him know that his response would’ve been far better without the Holocaust bit, which makes him look like he’s just FUDding and deflecting. Ditto the bit about “letting Airbus design an airport” – SNCF uses UIC standards when it builds things, and even non-UIC things are quite compatible (see Taiwan).

    On top of that, going by the partial information that’s been available regarding cost, I believe that SNCF’s I-5 decision contributed much less than half of the cost difference between its proposal and the HSRA’s (see explanation at my place). In particular the HSRA could’ve worked with SNCF, agreeing to pay the cost difference of serving Bakersfield and Fresno. The brushoff is disturbing.

    joe Reply:

    I would like to engage in a non-compliant bid to lead and build your project . I expect you to accommodate and spend the public funds necessary to make my low cost, non-compliant bid compliant.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Fresno wants the UP line grade-separated anyway, and Bakersfield is divided enough on whether it wants a downtown station it can get a peripheral station.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    So Alon, the link at your place says that there’s no funding. Do we have the actual proposal? Why do you take this hearsay as so credible, did they have a chance to so large amounts of engineering on our mountains, our soil, ROW acquisition costs?

    On what basis are they estimating the costs, have they built any infrastructure in the U.S.? Was there there an Engineering report? An engineering firm engaged? Did they break down the estimates by segment for us and type of cost?

    Help us understand on what basis did you find the Authority guilty so quickly?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    A bunch of questions there. I could cop out and say that Richard’s response is a guilty plea – if he’d had something more solid to say, like “The funding sources quoted in the article are in fact illusory and SNCF only had a few vague suggestions,” he would’ve said it. But in reality I wrote most of the post before seeing the response here. So,

    1. The anonymous sources for this are reasonably solid.

    2. All of the cost estimates so far, including those the HSRA are using, come from a common source of unit costs of such items as rails, catenary, earthworks, viaducts, and tunnels of various types. The value engineering on each segment is based purely on reducing scope to the minimum required to build an adequate connection.

    3. The issue with this is that the HSRA didn’t even let SNCF study this in more detail. It brushed off the idea entirely, instead of allowing an honest discussion about the incremental costs of serving Bakersfield and Fresno (costs that, by the way, I still think are quite low and worth the benefits). That alone tells me I shouldn’t trust the HSRA too much.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Well technically he said in the letter he leaked through Robert Cruickshank (Robert – I had no idea you were that well connected!) that SNCF didn’t “offer” funding, but of course nobody is going to just offer it to you without a bidding process! They brought representative from banks they’d worked with to a meeting (this I know! …can’t say how I know it, but I’ve heard it from more than one person at this point!) and said that they really thought it was viable (and why not? LA-SF is pretty much the ideal HSR corridor!) and that the Authority should put it out to bid.

    But of course the CHSRA didn’t even bother going through that process – it just decided that it was going to build the project itself, no matter the escalating costs and suggestion from a serious HSR builder that it could be done much more cheaply.

    joe Reply:

    A bunch of questions there. I could cop out and say that Richard’s response is a guilty plea – if he’d had something more solid to say, like “The funding sources quoted in the article are in fact illusory and SNCF only had a few vague suggestions,” he would’ve said it.

    The timing of this accusation – 3 days after the vote – tells me is not indented to fix CAHSR but go after the prime contractor and discredit the now FUNDED project.

    I don’t know what the rules are for meeting with the CAHSRA but CA HSR held a “Request for Expressions of Interest” where the SNCF design could have been put in the record.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Funded project? THat’s awesome news you’ve got there, Joe! Verified and validated.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Not a funded project.

    The key point is this one:

    “Most significantly, the SNCF proposal would have required the state to provide the company with a revenue guarantee. As has been made extremely clear by HSR critics and opponents in recent years, that is a clear violation of AB 3034 which explicitly forbids a revenue guarantee.”

    Non-compliant proposal. And also, if it requires a revenue guarantee, it is not funded.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    And that “key point” is an outright lie. This is one of the things Robert made up. Because it is way too embarrassing to admit to having turned down a proposal with funding, the defenders of the CHSRA feel forced to change the facts. As I’ve written previously here, and on, “This was a project that made enough business sense to them–it minimized costs while optimally serving the primary market–that they were willing to accept full ridership risk.”

    That’s why there is such hysteria on this blog post. See my post below.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    You’ve link to a presentation in which during the ramp up period the operator received cost-plus and there is both profit and loss sharing between concession grantor and operator. That’s an arrangement which allows for a subsidy from the authority to SNCF.

    Didn’t you read the presentation?

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Did you read the fine print on that?

    The submissions will not be evaluated and are not a prerequisite for participating in the procurement process. Those who respond to the “Request for Expressions of Interest” will receive information from the authority on an industry forum to be held in Southern California in the spring to further discuss private sector interest in the high-speed rail.

    The meeting SNCF had wasn’t to receive information from CHSRA – it was to try to explain to CHSRA how big boys build a high-speed rail system.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Seems to me the same arguments that supporters on the board make to justify the “blended” approach could be used to justify the SNCF proposal.

    Sacramento and San Diego are listed in the text of the law but are not in the current plan and justified as being added later…so why not the Central Valley?

    Initial operation of the HSR is going to require a subsidy because according to the authority no private money will become involved until the whole system is up and running and ridership numbers are confirmed. So the same logic could be used to justify a limited term subsidy for SNCF.

    The overall strategy on the blended approach is a less expensive compromise of a “full” system that shows the utility and benefits of HSR that will then be expanded later. Seems to me the SNCF proposal has the same logic expect it is even cheaper and easier to build. 1 basic line from LA to SF to show the concept with additions later.

    Perhaps I am tone-deaf to the politics but i am not understanding why we did not jump at the chance to have an experienced operator help build and run a relatively cheap starter line to prove the concept to the area.

    VBobier Reply:

    Oh let Me guess, all those Amtrak-California San Joaquin riders will not ride HSR? Are U serious or just deluded?

    Nathanael Reply:

    The law specificallly says LA-SF first, before Sacramento and San Diego (I don’t know why, politics I assume).

    The Central Valley shouldn’t be done “later” because it costs a bloody fortune to build the line twice. And they are very much close enough to *on the way*. (The coastal route is even more expensive.) San Diego is *not* on the way from LA to SF. Sacramento is only “on the way” if you go via the Second Transbay Tube, which I actually supported, but which somehow has failed to get a serious political coalition behind it.

    Please look up the post “Be On The Way” by Jarrett Walker.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I’m sure you regret that Ithaca isn’t on the way to anywhere.
    Compare the Amtrak schedules for Albany, Hartford, Harrisburg and Trenton. How many railroads operate in the Trenton station? What’s the commuter service like in Albany, Hartford or Harrisburg?

    Nathanael Reply:

    “i am not understanding why we did not jump at the chance to have an experienced operator help build and run a relatively cheap starter line to prove the concept to the area.”

    Because, as Robert says, SNCF were asking for a revenue guarantee — in other words, they believed the I-5 route was terrible and would receive few passengers and they wanted to be paid to run it.

    Don’t build a line which skips all the intermediate population centers as your starter line. That NEVER works.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    SNCF was not asking for a revenue guarantee. Robert seems to have gotten that off the record from Dan Richard (or someone else high up in CHSRA – whoever he got this letter from), and I suspect he would never say it on the record because it’s simply not true.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its contained in the presentation of the approach by SNCF. Absent a claim from SNCF that their offer modified that approach to remove the operating subsidy component, why not take them at their word in their public presentation of their approach?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Regardless of the merits of the SNCF proposal, the linking to the Holocaust is below the dignity of both the supporters and the opponents on this board. First, it is irrelevant to the question at hand. Second, there is not a company or country for that matter that does not have some kind of black mark on its record no matter how old. Are we going to refuse US Federal tax money because they relocated the Native Americans and appropriated their land? Are we going to refuse to hire anyone from the south because of slavery. The fact they were even asked to apologize and that the LA times ran a story is bad enough. For Dan Richard to bring it up and Robert to endorse the letter is beyond belief.

    What happened during WWII and the Holocaust is beyond horrible. However, this is America, we don’t hold grudges against people and companies that now have no link to those despicable past behaviors. Judge the proposal on its merits and the company behavior as it exists today.

    PS. I can’t believe I am defending the French. :-)

    VBobier Reply:

    Don’t feel bad, French people have their racists, I should know, I’m of French descent… But I’m not racist at least.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Quite ~ more substantial is the point that SNCF was asking for a revenue guarantee, so that their proposal of the I-5 cannot be used as an argument that the overall revenue benefit versus cost of construction lies with the I-5. They were asking the State to cover the risk resulting from running away from the transport markets between the San Joaquin valley and both ends of the Phase 1 corridor.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    more substantial is the point that SNCF was asking for a revenue guarantee

    Robert Cruickshank says this, but I don’t believe it. My sources are claiming that SNCF was willing (or at least, said it and its big bank parnters were likely willing – again, no formal bid was ever made because CHSRA never took their advice and put it out to bid!) to guarantee ridership.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The presentation by SNCF specifies cost-plus operation with profit/loss sharing between the operator and the concessionaire. That amounts to a potential operating subsidy if there are revenues less than the operating cost plus the cost-plus margin ~ which is to say, an operating subsidy anywhere below operating cost, and a proportionally smaller operating subsidy in the margin between operating cost and operating cost-plus.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Which presentation are we talking about? The one that SNCF gave in 2010 (referenced in the LAT article, but afaik is not in the public domain), or the 2009 one that was leaked and reposted on Yonah’s blog?

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Oops, okay, I see you’re talking about the 2010, which David Schonbrunn has made available. Let’s take this down to Alon’s comment at #13 just so we don’t have the same conversation in 15 different threads…

  3. James McDonald
    Jul 11th, 2012 at 21:51

    I’m sick and tired of these people trying to run the California High Speed Rail down to the ground with disbelief. Let’s just set the groundbreaking date and quit wasting weeks and months.

  4. Brandon from San Diego
    Jul 11th, 2012 at 22:00

    Again, why are legs being given to something that is inconsequential? SNCF submitted a proposal that was not consistent with state law. Didn’t they do their research? Upon learning that their proposal was rejected, and for the reasons it was rejected…., SNCF should have shut their mouths, maybe said “sorry for wasting your time” and left the room and never to be heard from again. They goofed. Not CHSRA!

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Does state law require LA-Fresno travel times that can be achieved only via an alignment that’s high-speed all the way?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    This is the entirety of the specified time corridors:

    (b) Maximum nonstop service travel times for each corridor that shall not exceed the following:
    (1) San Francisco-Los Angeles Union Station: two hours, 40 minutes. (2) Oakland-Los Angeles Union Station: two hours, 40 minutes.
    (3) San Francisco-San Jose: 30 minutes.
    (4) San Jose-Los Angeles: two hours, 10 minutes.
    (5) San Diego-Los Angeles: one hour, 20 minutes.
    (6) Inland Empire-Los Angeles: 30 minutes.
    (7) Sacramento-Los Angeles: two hours, 20 minutes.

    Central Valley isn’t listed at all.

    joe Reply:

    Look at train speed capabilities in Prop 1A – some include requirements the trains be electric and capable of 200 MPH sustained speeds.

    Look at the the official state voter ballot about the purpose of Prop 1A and areas it is supposed to service. “Provides for a bond issue of $9.95 billion to establish high-speed train service linking Southern California counties, the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area.”

    Paul Druce Reply:

    200mph sustained speeds is a trainset capability, it is not a track requirement.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    I love the idea of a train being forced to maintain 200mph at all times…as if it’s even physically possible to bring a train (or any object, at least in this universe!) from 200mph to 0mph without anything in between!

    VBobier Reply:

    Yeah, that would require inertialess abilities right out of StarTrek, which so far haven’t materialized.

    egk Reply:

    Anybody have any ideas on how is Oakland-LA in 2:40 going to be even close to possible?

    Nathanael Reply:

    There’s some complexity in the specifications of the SF end of the project. But I believe the Transbay Tunnel would have done the trick. I’m not sure about the “via Sacramento” route, but I think that might work as well.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    Not a snowball’s chance. Not even close. (There will never be a HS service to Oakland.)

    Moreover, SF-SJ in 30min is impossible, by anybody.

    SF-LA in 2:40 is impossible, by CHSRA via Palmdale and Los Banos.

    You can see where this is going.

    Just remember: Prop 1A is sacrosanct, except when it isn’t.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Jerry: “Prop 1A, c’est moi.”

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Moreover, SF-SJ in 30min is impossible, by anybody.

    Piece ‘o cake. Spend enough money I’m sure someone would be willing to build a tunnel from San Francisco to San Jose and run maglev trains in it.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Don’t be so sure. Way things work over there, they’ll make sure to build skyscrapers in the middle of key portions of the ROW.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Building skyscrapers underground sorta kills the buzz about it scraping the sky.
    Go deep enough and sooner or later you end up in bedrock solid enough to carry the skyscraper above it .
    ..a digression typical NYC subway station is as long as a 40 story skyscraper is tall

    egk Reply:

    @ richard m. But couldn’t a BART (Oakland-Livermore) + HSR trip (Livermore to LA) approach 2:40 (45 to Livermore, 2:00 to LA?).

    Or even better, just looking at lines on a map, couldn’t the BART ROW from Dublin/Pleasanton (really Livermore; well, REALLY, Manteca) be reconfigured to standard-gauge, overhead-catenary, HSR-compatible track. That could providing express rail service to Pleasanton, Livermore, Castro, Valley (somewhere there’d have to be a BART transfer, I guess, and this would probably have to extend all the way to Oakland, parallel to the current BART line as…an express). This is the kind of thing that I could imagine some of you folk have thought of on long dark boring nights. Political feasibility: nill; technical: ? [couldn’t cost that much (only 15-20 miles of new track on the east bay, after all)]

    Jon Reply:

    Converting BART to standard gauge has long been a fantasy of a certain poster here. Never gonna happen though.

    VBobier Reply:

    Oakland is not SF, so this would probably not be legal, Prop 1a says SF to LA/OC, Oakland is on the other side of the bay from SF and so is out of the way, since a bridge and tunnel are out due to the sheer costs involved, as are barges or ferries, besides Oakland doesn’t want HSR and SF/SJ do, I’d drop the idea, so it’s down the peninsula to SJ, then the CV, then Palmdale, then LA and eventually to OC.

    egk Reply:

    Um. The intent was to serve Oakland (why do you think it “doesn’t want HSR”?) in addition to SF/SJ.
    It is possible, you know to have MORE THAN ONE TERMINAL for trains running on much the same track. (oh, and we don’t want to convert ALL of BART, just the orphaned line up to Dublin/Pleasanton, which (in any rationally planned rail transit system) should be rights be served with quality commuter rail, NOT the intercity subway which is BART. [Think of it as the Blended plan for the east bay]

    BruceMcF Reply:

    How much would that conversion cost? A Tracy/Livermore tunnel and running on the planned BART corridor Pleasanton/Livermore the other way, then on the BART corridor to Castro Valley … and how does the train get from there to Oakland? A viaduct over the 238 through to … ??

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Paul Druce:

    Central Valley isn’t listed at all.

    If you focus on the ‘Phase 1’ being solely between San Francisco Transbay Terminal and Los Angeles Union Station and Anaheim, you’re absolutely 100% correct. No mention of the Central Valley at all.

    But if you focus on the reality of the cost of getting to the point of laying track, you quickly come to the conclusion that laying track 1/3rd of the length of the state is expensive, and doing it twice in order to then serve the mandated cities in the Central Valley is ruinously expensive. In which case, the unstated routing of the ‘Phase 1’ corridor between SF and LA becomes one of following some of the other permissible corridors:

    (A) Sacramento to Stockton to Fresno.
    (B) San Francisco Transbay Terminal to San Jose to Fresno.
    (C) Oakland to San Jose.
    (D) Fresno to Bakersfield to Palmdale to Los Angeles Union
    (E) Los Angeles Union Station to Riverside to San Diego.
    (F) Los Angeles Union Station to Anaheim to Irvine.
    (G) Merced to Stockton to Oakland and San Francisco via the
    Altamont Corridor.

    The inclusion of Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield, and exclusion of ‘San Jose to Los Angeles Union Station’ makes it pretty clear that the intent of AB3034 is for the tracks to go through the Central Valley, and for the tracks to serve the Central Valley cities.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    220mph tracks through the middle of cities is one of the most absurdly expensive and idiotic things you can do. Seriously, putting them off on a spur is the most rational design there is.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Paul Druce:

    The basis for high speed tracks through the middle of cities, or more accurately, through or around station sites, is:

    (e) Trains shall have the capability to transition intermediate stations, or to bypass those stations, at mainline operating speed.

    There is no definition given for what is the ‘mainline operating speed’. An earlier section has an important proviso limiting the speeds:

    (d) “High-speed train” means a passenger train capable of sustained revenue operating speeds of at least 200 miles per hour where conditions permit those speeds.

    There you go, a valid basis from the enabling legislation to have a lower speed limit on the HSR trains when they pass through a station-in-the-middle-of-the-city without stopping, the conditions (not enough noise suppression) don’t permit a higher speed. You’re welcome.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Say goodbye to the end to end run times in Prop 1A then.

    Prop 1A is sacred holy writ. Except when it isn’t.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Richard Mlynarik:

    Unfortunately so. If the per-city conditions result in the regular express speed through those cities dropping too far below the required average speed, then you may as well run all-stops trains all the time and only have a once per week/month/quarter/year time-proving run meeting the letter of the law, and an office to deal with the deluge of NIMBY-driven complaints that will come in regarding the noise and disruption the passing of the scheduled speed run caused, even if it didn’t run.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    You misunderstand the structure of Prop 1A. The section you quoted lists corridors that can be built using bond funds only if they don’t interfere with the Phase I project from the Transbay Terminal to Anaheim.

    You ignore the 2:10 travel time requirement for San Jose to LAUS. It wasn’t excluded, because it is part of Phase I. Your conclusion is wholly unsuported by your argument. The first paragraph is accurate, though.

    Your argument about the cost of laying track is flawed, because you are leaving out the really expensive part. The cost of structure proposed for the Central Valley project dwarfs what would be needed for a largely at-grade I-5 build.

    thatbruce Reply:


    There’s more to my post than the bits you’ve chosen to reply to.

    You misunderstand the structure of Prop 1A.

    I doubt that. You may wish to avail yourself of the archives of this forum to discern my previous readings and interpretations of Prop 1A / AB 3034.

    The section you quoted lists corridors that can be built using bond funds only if they don’t interfere with the Phase I project from the Transbay Terminal to Anaheim.

    Kinda sorta not really. You’ve quoted one of the conditions (they use ‘adverse impact’), but left off the other two, one of which is a doozy in its references. Here’s the text from the enabling legislation:

    (3) Upon a finding by the authority that expenditure of bond proceeds for capital costs in corridors other than the corridor described in paragraph (2) would advance the construction of the
    system, would be consistent with the criteria described in subdivision (f) of Section 2704.08, and would not have an adverse impact on the construction of Phase 1 of the high-speed train
    project, the authority may request funding for capital costs, and the Legislature may appropriate funds described in paragraph (1) in the annual Budget Act, to be expended for any of the following high-speed train corridors:

    In simple english, the list of corridors that I provided previously can have funds directed towards them if they would help the system along, would not delay the construction of ‘Phase 1’, and would be consistent with criteria cited in an additional section. To save you the trouble of looking it up, I’ve reproduced that section here:

    (f) In selecting corridors or usable segments thereof for construction, the authority shall give priority to those corridors or usable segments thereof that are expected to require the least
    amount of bond funds as a percentage of total cost of construction. Among other criteria it may use for establishing priorities for initiating construction on corridors or usable segments thereof, the
    authority shall include the following: (1) projected ridership and revenue, (2) the need to test and certify trains operating at speeds of 220 miles per hour, (3) the utility of those corridors or usable
    segments thereof for passenger train services other than the high-speed train service that will not result in any unreimbursed operating or maintenance cost to the authority, and (4) the extent to
    which the corridors include facilities contained therein to enhance the connectivity of the high-speed train network to other modes of transit, including, but not limited to, conventional rail (intercity
    rail, commuter rail, light rail, or other rail transit), bus, or air transit.

    Your I-5 alignment as part of ‘Phase 1’ would certainly meet the cost and test/certify fast trains criteria, but without the spurs to the Central Valley cities, fails the ridership, revenue, utility and connectivity conditionals.

    Your argument about the cost of laying track is flawed, because you are leaving out the really expensive part.

    Well, I’m always happy to help people comprehend broad issues regarding costs and politics involved in building a high speed rail line in California. To go back to my original, glossed-over-because-it-doesn’t-fit-with-your-world-view point, this is about building a rail line, or set of rail lines that adhere to AB 3034, on a limited budget, in the face of continual distortions by its opponents and by an agency held captive by its main contractor.

    The distance to be covered by the ‘Phase 1’ (that’s a ‘one’ btw) in the above-referenced enabling legislation, covers roughly 1/3rd of the length of the state. Let’s call that ‘D’. The length of the Central Valley that is along that length is roughly 1/4 the length of the state, or 0.75 of D.

    The cost of building a mostly at-grade roadbed and putting track down atop it is another arbitrary number that we’ll call $N. $N is a really big number, but is still a tiny fraction of the numbers thrown around in the California state budget each year, especially when you consider that $N isn’t a single year’s expenditure, but spread out over, lets make this a nice round number, 10 years. But still big enough to cause lots of unhappiness over the amount, otherwise known as ‘sticker shock’.

    What you’re proposing is that to construct ‘Phase 1’, and then come back and construct additional track in later phases to serve the mandated cities in the Central Valley, the state should construct tracks totaling D + 0.75 * D, with a price tag of $N + 0.75 * $N.

    Let’s take a step back, and examine the politics of this plan. It has been a huge uphill battle to get to where the state has been willing to commit to its share of $N. Are you seriously proposing that the battle should have been fought over a sum of $N + 0.75 * $N ? And bear in mind, that 0.75 is based on mostly at-grade spurs.

    The cost of structure proposed for the Central Valley project dwarfs what would be needed for a largely at-grade I-5 build.

    You’ve left out some words there. Let me help you with that.

    The cost of structures proposed for the Central Valley project dwarfs the original scope of the project due to a series of compromises and what would be needed for a largely at-grade I-5 build.

    To answer my rhetorical question above, actually, you are . What’s worse, by concentrating solely on the structures arrived through a series of compromises with opponents, and not suggesting that the spurs be constructed as lower-speed, mostly at-grade lines, you’re implying that any HSR laid in or near the Central Valley cities would require expensive structures, suggesting that the amount shouldn’t be $N or $N + 0.75 * $N, but instead should be $N + 2 * $N . Even if you did come out now and say ‘oh no, I meant to say that the spurs would be mostly at-grade, lower speeds and without the current number of expensive structures just as thatbruce pointed out’, you still can’t get away from the basic math of $N + 0.75 * $N.

    That’s the real cost of not making the ‘Phase 1’ routing the same as the suggested permissible routings through the Central Valley that would advance the construction of the system, having to repeat the construction exercise in the same general vicinity with a near doubling of the original cost.

    You ignore the 2:10 travel time requirement for San Jose to LAUS. It wasn’t excluded, because it is part of Phase I. Your conclusion is wholly unsuported by your argument. The first paragraph is accurate, though.

    You’ve been putting words into the mouths of others there, which is a rather unsavory habit. In my previous post, I pointed out the financial downfall with any proposal that involves building the Central Valley twice, and provided a list of corridors which indicate that the intent of the enabling legislation was to serve the east side of the Central Valley, not the unpopulated west side.

    If you’d done your research, you would have noted that with the enabling legislation banning a particular station site, and for them to bypass other stations at ‘mainline operating speed‘, there is ample opportunity for trains subject to the 2’10” time constraint between SJ and LA to maintain a high average speed, even if they end up slowing down to 125mph to pass through the major Central Valley cities, and even if the routing takes them on the mandated detour through Palmdale. Since this blog has discussed the matter of timings through the Central Valley before, I did not feel the need to reiterate that point.

    ( 2’40” between SF and LA, however, is much more difficult due to the ‘blended’ proposals severely limiting the possible speeds, and to be sure there will be a bevy of interpretations one way or the other arguing the final 30 minutes between SF and SJ. )

    While your cost argument behind an I-5 corridor may seem attractive in containing costs in ‘Phase 1’, the eventual need for spur lines to serve the Central Valley’s population centers significantly increases the costs for the final system adhering to the Legislature’s stated intent:

    It is the intent of the Legislature by enacting this chapter and of the people of California by approving the bond measure pursuant to this chapter to initiate the construction of a high-speed train system that connects the San Francisco Transbay Terminal to Los Angeles Union Station and Anaheim, and links the state’s major population centers, including Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, Orange County, and San Diego consistent with the authority’s certified environmental impact reports of November 2005 and July 9, 2008.

    Clem Reply:

    Your entire argument seems to rest on $N being a linear function of route-miles. It isn’t.

    thatbruce Reply:


    Your entire argument seems to rest on $N being a linear function of route-miles. It isn’t.

    You are completely correct, hence why the notation of ‘mostly at-grade’ was repeated several times. The costs to get into/out of the SF Bay area, and likewise the LA basin will have a per-mile higher cost. This doesn’t negate the core point that essentially duplicating the trackage in the Central Valley (I-5 + spurs) will carry with it a higher cost than having a single east-valley alignment, and that it would be a difficult sell in today’s political climate in order to get that additional funding.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    I’m struck by the schizo responses on this site. On the one hand, there are in-depth references to the intricacies of Prop 1A, but where was the outrage when the Authority totally ignored the requirements of 2704.08(f), lovingly quoted immediately above. Are you assuming that CHSRA gets a pass when there is only enough money to build one segment (because the route is so crappy that no one will invest private capital), so it doesn’t have to find the largest bond matches? Did anyone notice how miserably the 130 mile segment scores on these tests? Or do the payoff demands of Jim Costa trump them?

    I’d like to know what thatBruce meant by my putting words in other people’s mouths. If he was referring to himself, he’s the one that actually wrote “exclusion of ‘San Jose to Los Angeles Union Station’.”

    Given the stellar job the CHSRA has been doing, it will be a miracle if it builds the length of the Central Valley once. Forget about twice… I would rather see that one time accomplished largely at-grade, and not as a classic PB structure-heavy boondoggle. Sorry, but I just don’t buy the algebra… Structure costs (aka PB tribute) make it a joke, as Clem pointed out.

    joe Reply:

    Schizo or maybe you’re not paying attention to the funding reqs?

    The CV Corridor also met the ARRA requirement the the ARRA funds build a stand alone capability — the CV segment could be reused by Amtrack.

    If you ignore the ARRA requirements then the CAHSRA loses billions of dollars. Maybe you have a different solution but how does it qualify for ARRA funds?

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    Donnez-moi un break, s’il vous plait!

    You are arguing that 130 miles of track unconnected to the South is more desirable than an LA-SF HSR system? That’s the choice we are discussing here. The feeble reference to ARRA is irrelevant, because it only applies to lame projects that have no systemwide funding.There is no need for standalone capability when you have a real, funded project.

    Something no one talks about: How much do you think it adds to the project costs to build in the capacity to carry heavy locomotives for Amtrak? My sources say the needed structural strength quadruples the cost.

    That is an enormous amount of money to spend, just to be able to meet the requirements for ARRA funding, especially if the HSR project implodes. But a free bypass around Fresno will make the Class 1s very happy. A great Holiday gift from Jim Costa! They’re sure gonna hate to give it back if HSR ever comes.

    joe Reply:

    The ARRA required granted money build some capability that has stand alone utility.

    There’s No Prop 1A money without matching funds from the Feds. That funding is the ARRA money.

    Now figure out how to meet the ARRA requirement so you can have matching funds form Prop1a.

    I’m sure there are other alternatives of greater value but so far you’re not indicating much insight into the ARRA/Prop1A conditions.

    Right now you guys seem way in over your heads.

    Look tell your source (maybe that’s Dad) to send his comments to the GAO and then copy that and send it to Issa’s Oversight Committee.

  5. joe
    Jul 11th, 2012 at 22:19

    Someone with TRANSDEF sig claims to have given the SNCF / I-5 story to the LATimes. That story was published July 9th, 3 days *after* the Senate Vote on July 6th.

    TRANSDEF further accuses the CAHSRA of lying in the Business Plan (April 2012). That is 2 full months prior to the Senate vote.

    If this LATimes story is damaging to CAHSRA then why did the LATimes not publish the story prior to the vote?

    Why did TRANSDEF not put out a web reference to this story prior to the vote?

    http://TRANSDEF.ORG has a graphic “Follow the People, Follow the Lights”
    Why does a org that strongly advocates following the people and lights now endorse a dark I-5 alignment?

    The LATimes story is supposed to important but the paper published that story three days *after* the critical vote.

    Is this late publication an indication of incompetence that the newspaper cannot get a story to print in time to impact a vote that was expected end of June 2012?

    Why would TRANSDEF not get the word out to multiple sources such as the competitor newspaper Mercury News but instead apparently exclusively send the story to a HRS-critical source?

    Did the Mercury News refuse to run with this possibly exaggerated and poorly substantiated story?

    datacruncher Reply:

    I like the “Follow the people, Follow the lights” graphic.

    Right now it shows the lights (and possible HSR lines) that lead to Fresno. Yet like you said in their blog on 7/10 Transdef is talking about how SNCF would have already been building on I-5 skipping Fresno?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    You’re conflating SNCF’s proposal with others’.

    One can bring some new information to light without being a 100% endorser of it, or without having been privy to it when one formulated one’s opinions.

    It’s also possible to revise one’s thinking (eg mine over Tejon, and, less likely, mine over I-5) in the face of new data. At least it’s possible in the case of intelligent human beings.

    But I know, playing juvenile “gotcha” beats the pants of analysis and reanalysis, don’t it?

  6. Stephen Smith
    Jul 11th, 2012 at 22:48

    I’m going to have a longer comment, but just a few things…

    1. David Schonbrunn is NOT the only person I’ve spoken to – not by a long shot – and you’d know that if you had read my post carefully.
    2. There is *nothing* in Prop 1A that rules out the I-5 alignment. The proposition says it must serve the Central Valley, not that it must serve the Central Valley on every single train an that it can’t be through a spur or an upgraded San Joaquin. I’m very confused about why you still keep bringing this up, because it seems obvious to me that this is not an issue. Maybe I’m not understanding something?

    joe Reply:

    Verify and validate. Verify you met the requirements and validate that the requirements describe the right system.

    An I-5 alignment fails any reasonable validation test.

    The Prop says the system has to operate trains at 200 sustained speeds so you propose adding spurs to the cities off the I-5 alignment and run train-sets at 200 MPH? How much money does this save?

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Can you quote the language of the proposition, please?

    joe Reply:

    So you want to service the CV cities with an upgraded San Joaquin or build spurs and comply with Prop 1A?
    (a) Electric trains that are capable of sustained maximum revenue operating speeds of no less than 200 miles per hour.

    Do you guys get picked up after meetings by your parents or do you bike home?

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    “Electric trains operating constantly at speeds of at least 200 mph on all section of track” ≠ “Electric trains capable of sustained maximum revenue operating speeds of no less than 200 mph”

    (Anyway, that wouldn’t even make sense according to the most elementary laws of physics…how the hell do you propose getting a train to 0 mph without ever dropping below 200 mph?)

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It would also mean that the SJ-SF and LA-ANA sections, which will be no more than 125mph and have always been no more than 125mph, are incompatible with Prop 1A. Somehow, I don’t think so.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    However 200mph capable trains have to be able to traverse the corridor, so its at the very least an all-passenger new single track with passing loops and fully grade separated from the freight track.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Blended plan kinda ditches that idea.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    In what way? Both ends of the Blended Plan will be Rapid Rail corridor time-separated from freight. Match that, and you’d have a point, but matching what will be available at the ends under the Blended Plan is what I’ve specified above.

    Indeed, for the descent into the LA Basin, a Rapid Rail corridor to Lancaster and to the AV line and an Express HSR corridor down the Tejon Pass is my personal preference.

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Stephen Smith:

    I don’t see where you get “Electric trains operating constantly at speeds of at least 200 mph on all section of track” from. It’s not from AB 3034, the voter guide or previous posts on this thread. Any comments about 200 mph refer to the train’s capabilities, and not about any minimum speed limit.

    joe Reply:

    Validate you did/will build the intended system.

    Voters guide:
    The High-Speed Train System. Of the total amount,
    $9 billion would be used, together with any available
    federal monies, private monies, and funds from other
    sources, to develop and construct a high-speed train system
    that connects San Francisco Transbay Terminal to Los
    Angeles Union Station and Anaheim, and links the state’s
    major population centers, including Sacramento, the San
    Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles, the
    Inland Empire, Orange County, and San Diego.

    Your proposed shortcut solution “The proposition says it must serve the Central Valley, not that it must serve the Central Valley on every single train an that it can’t be through a spur or an upgraded San Joaquin.” fails to build the intended system as dewc ribed in the offial ballot and fails to meet some high level performance requirements.
    It is more costly if built to require specification.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Do you know how much land it would require to build a high-speed wye for every Central Valley city? It would be a massive concrete-pouring fest. Richard would probably think that PB would love it. (Clearly, he’s wrong about PB.)

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Nathanael, as a highly numerate person I’m sure you know the answer and can do it in your head, and just left this as a test.

    230kmh diverging = ~ 2500m radius (generously rounding up.)

    A quarter annulus of inner radius 2500m and width 18m has area ~ 71 ha.

    Two of them for a wye = ~ 140ha (with a bunch of overlap at the apexes; and we’re rounding up everywhere.)

    Then add in a bunch of extra for the three flying-over tracks.

    Visit Google Earth. Locate any of the many dozens of high speed junctions. Do a little sanity checking on one picked at random: length of diverging flyover track slew seems to be around 2500m with a max offset ~100m. Over-estimating the ROW for the slew as a pair of triangles, thats ~ 6.3 ha (2500 * 100 / 2). But we’ve double-accounted for the area of the diverging track over the first 1600m or so. So subtract ~ 1600 * 18 = ~0.3 ha, oops needn’t have bothered.

    So ~ 140 + 6 + 6 + 6 = ~ 160 ha ~ 400 acres. Rounded way up at each stage.

    You’re welcome.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That’s about the size of the new RoPo casino plot, under construction now. $700mil – 3,000 slot machines. Unfortunately it is farther from SMART than I had thought, but GGT should be able to divert the #80-101 bus to directly serve it.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    I don’t think these cities would be connected via a classical Wye, but with two junctions, which would allow to get the train back onto the main line without changing direction.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    But also all-passenger track for the length of the CV corridor. Even if its a 110mph corridor, it will add up, and if its a 125mph the grade separations will push the price tag even higher.

    synonymouse Reply:

    A very, very, very leisurely wye. I suspect creative engineers could work some surprises here.

    The very high sustained speeds on the Racetrack and the spur would make up for extra mileage to Fresno(Bako is good to go both north and south). It could be just a matter of a few minutes

    synonymouse Reply:

    And let’s not forget the blistering travel time LA to Sac via the Racetrack.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And a separate cut to Fresno is always a possibility down the road.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    and lots less frequency.

    synonymouse Reply:

    whatever frequency Fresno traffic merits

    Thru passengers enjoy express service via the Racetrack

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    so, how often do those empty – because people who start out or end up in Fresno won’t be on them – fill up and empty out? 10,000 passengers a day at Fresno works out to 5,000 each way and at 500 passengers a trainload, ten trains a day. Four to San Francisco, four or five to Los Angeles and one or two to Sacramento. MMMM mmm MMMM.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    However, you have to include the cost of passenger-only Rapid Rail track through the Central Valley cities in your costing, including a signal from the corridor owner that they would allow you to build a passenger-only track in their corridor … or else have a waiver from the FRA in hand for running the HSR trains on the existing freight track.

    Pursuing that strategy with Palmdale would be a reasonable accompaniment to the Tejon Pass corridor ~ upgrading the Antelope Valley corridor to a Rapid Rail corridor, an express 1:30 gradiant cut to bypass the Tehachapi look and Rapid Rail in the corridor to Bakersfield should be do-able in under the budget difference between Tejon and Tehachapi.

    But it seems like doing that in the San Joaquin would more than eat up all the prospective cost savings of the I-5 alignment, so that the assumed budget savings are not really there if the scope of the project is left in place.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Bruce, here’s $100 billion dollars to fill in the gaps you’re so worried about. Go ~ for ~ it.

    Feel free to spend anything left over on coke and hookers. Woo hoo!

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Actually what was available was $8b or so provided another $8b or more Federal or additional state and local funding could be found. Here again, your love of the attention attracted by a comment thread drama queen has over-ridden any fading aspiration of making financially numerate claims.

    Jul 12th, 2012 at 02:18

    After first responding to the SNCF story with a deer-in-the-headlights “No comment,” CHSRA is now in full damage control mode. The sheer number of slurs and easily disprovable allegations in Richard’s letter indicates panic over this story. As second fiddle in CHSRA’s attack machine, Robert resorts to making stuff up, too.

    The vehemence of the combined response says we’ve struck a nerve. That’s a tacit admission that SNCF made a proposal that somehow threatened the status quo.

    Consider this one point: If the proposal was even a quarter as bad as alleged here, why would the Authority have clamped such a tight lid of secrecy on it? It just doesn’t wash…

    Readers of this blog are invited to check out the other side of the story on our website:
    (Robert could even add it to his blog roll!)

    BTW, note that ‘the significant controversy over SNCF’s role in the Holocaust’ arose only after SNCF made its proposal, potentialy disrupting the CHSRA’s happy family of consultants. Did Bob Blumenfield suddenly wake up one day, outraged by the injustice? Or was this a commercial counterattack, disguised as the voice of conscience?

    joe Reply:

    Shorter TRANSDEF: “All your base are belong to us”

    “The vehemence of the combined response says we’ve struck a nerve.

    ‘Consider this one point: If the proposal was even a quarter as bad as alleged here, why would the Authority have clamped such a tight lid of secrecy on it? It just doesn’t wash… “

    Senate Vote July 6.
    LATimes article July 9.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    TRANSDEF is disingenuous. On one hand promotes a sponsor that supports an I-5 alignment and then elsewhere promotes service to where people live. That is with their follow the lights picture.

    Does not make sense.

    Further, their I-5 sponsor may have brought financing for the project (maybe), however, would have resulted in a project that would have been more costly to construct and more expensive to operate. Spurs = more track miles. Spurs = more in-service trains to provide basic service.

    That makes further nonsense.

    Are these “activists” from San RAfael a bunch of liberal arts majors from Cal State Hayward or Sonoma State?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    The argument from several is that the spurs just consist of Wyes to connect the I-5 corridor to the existing San Joaquin shared freight corridor, leaving one would presume Express HSR trains loco-hauled at 79mph or less to provide the CV service.

    synonymouse Reply:

    San Rafael? Wow – local guys – good show

    Cheerleaders fretting about the peasantry rising up against PB, PG&E, Pelosi and her pet judiciary?
    . puh-leez

    Nathanael Reply:

    You have definitely been making stuff up. Robert, not so much.

  8. neville snark
    Jul 12th, 2012 at 03:38

    How do you think the people of California and the US generally would respond to the French — in particular SCNF who can be (absurdly) linked to the holocaust — coming in and getting a giant contract for what is supposed to be a US infrastructure project? It would be a giant headache, and admission of failure (we can’t do it, better get someone who can) and it would be a case of damned if you’re successful and damned if you’re not: success, and we’d have the FRENCH making money off AMERICANS; failure, and whole thing would be called a mistake. So (in addition to various reasons that have been discussed here) this is another political reason that cannot be openly admitted. It’s a little like saying that most efficacious reason the rank-and-file right wants so desperately stop anything associated with Obama’s is that he’s black.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    How do you think the people of California and the US generally would respond to the French

    Awesome! Kewl! We just saved $100 billion dollars. Let’s go to Disneyland! And buy tons and tons and tons and tons of coke!

    Nathanael Reply:

    How would they have responded to this non-compliant proposal?

    “Why doesn’t the line go to Fresno?”
    “Why are we giving a revenue guarantee to this French company? The line is losing money because it doesn’t stop in any of the Central Valley cities.”

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    How would they have responded to this non-compliant proposal?

    Awesome! Kewl! We just saved $100 billion dollars. Let’s go to Disneyland! And buy tons and tons and tons and tons of coke! And hookers!

    BruceMcF Reply:

    I see. So accusing a proposal with non-compliance is a killer blow if RM disagrees with the proposal, but its a triviality if RM agrees with the proposal.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    How is it non-compliant? There is absolutely nothing in Prop1A that requires a station in downtown Fresno or for Fresno’s station to be on the mainline track instead of off on a spur.

    Peter Reply:

    Actually, Prop 1A does contain at least an implied requirement for Fresno and Bakersfield to be on the mainline, rejecting the I-5 alignment.

    Specifically, it states the following:

    2704.04. (a) It is the intent of the Legislature by enacting this
    chapter and of the people of California by approving the bond
    measure pursuant to this chapter to initiate the construction of a
    high-speed train system that connects the San Francisco Transbay
    Terminal to Los Angeles Union Station and Anaheim, and links the
    state’s major population centers, including Sacramento, the San
    Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles, the Inland
    Empire, Orange County, and San Diego consistent with the authority’s
    certified environmental impact reports of November 2005
    and July 9,
    2008. [emphasis added]

    If you refer to that document, it states that the Preferred Alternative for alignment in the Central Valley is along or near the 99 corridor (primarily BNSF alignment) from Bakersfield to Sacramento and the Bay Area.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What if the EIR gets decertified as happened with Pacheco?

    Peter Reply:

    For that to happen, the Authority would have to decertify it of its own accord. That one cannot be challenged in court any longer, the Statute of Limitations has run. For CEQA there is a 30 day SOL, and for NEPA a 6-month SOL.

    And what do you think the likelihood is that the Authority would decertify that Programmatic EIR, rather than prepare a Supplemental EIR instead?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Hasn’t the lawsuit period for a 2005 EIR long since passed? Under what mechanism would it be decertified?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If the HSRA can self-decertify, they can make I-5 compliant, no?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Category error: your question is “In what way is Prop 1A relevant?”.

  9. William
    Jul 12th, 2012 at 03:39

    A few questions, why did SNCF offer this level of design detail when other consulting HSR builders offered none? Or just that SNCF made a bigger fuss about this? Or CAHSRA was just not happy that SNCF tied financial support with alignment choice, therefore just ignored SNCF? Or all of this just CAHSR opponent seized the opportunity to attack CAHSRA again because SNCF was the only one who suggested the I-5 alignment?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The problem with the French is they have no word for entrepreneur.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    Your best line ever!

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Not mine. And not Dubya’a, either.

  10. Peter Baldo
    Jul 12th, 2012 at 05:37

    Please give us a link to the SNCF plan. I don’t like discussions where one side claims knowledge of some evidence, but won’t share the actual evidence with others.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    Thank you for the suggestion. I’ve posted the SNCF presentation:

    Eric M Reply:

    Ah, no I-5 route proposed. What you posted is basically a sales pitch to get the CAHSRA to go with the French instead of the Asians.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    I’d sure like to know how you were able to discern that. Or did you just pull it out of your ass, as part of the disinformation campaign being conducted here?

    In my opinion, it is a sales pitch for the kind of transparent process needed to actually get HSR built in CA.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The sales pitch still doesn’t say anything about I-5.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Which confirms the subsidy claim made by Richard.

    TRANSDEF Reply:

    Ditto for Bruce.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    So its a sales pitch. I was referring to part of the contents of the sales pitch, which is cost plus operation in the ramp up with profits and/or losses shared between authority and operator. According to SNCF, that’s how the business model works. If its a sales pitch, that suggests there are likely additional potential gotchas for the authority … as sales pitches for a business model normally engage in over-selling the business model, not under-selling the business model.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Ah – okay, I see that the 2010 has been unleashed upon the world! How ’bout let’s take all this discussion down to Alon’s comment at #13…

  11. Richard Mlynarik
    Jul 12th, 2012 at 07:05

    Why do you people — for whom Prop 1A is SACRED HOLY WRIT (except when it isn’t, when it’s inconvenient, like da Holey Baahhbul) — insist that a state proposition authorizing the issuance of bonds is relevant to the routing of a privately financed project undertaken by third parties?

    joe Reply:

    You make no sense.

    “Why do you people — insist that a state proposition authorizing the issuance of bonds is relevant to the routing of a privately financed project undertaken by third parties?”

    The privately financed project under taken by third parties intent on making awesome profit approached the CAHSRA which was designing a Prop1A compliant business plan.

    CAHSRA can’t stop the private project.

    Look at

    These private interests can approach the federal government and seek support to build a project that would save 100B – they can get a federal loan at very low interest – possibly at or near a negative interest rates. Did the DOT’s LaHood hang up on them too?

    Maybe they could drop 100k on the President when he is fund raising and ask him for some attention – pitch their offer to build a free train in Cali, save 100B and implement his HSR plan with private money.

    But no. It’s all PB’s fault.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Indeed; if a private company wanted to build a line from SF to LA without complying with Prop 1A, it could just try what DesertXPress / XpressWest did. Looks like XPressWest is going to get a very large low-interest loan.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    XPressWest has been going to get a very large low-interest loan for years now. The line was supposed to open this year.

    joe Reply:

    So? It’s a funding source and worthy of a pitch for a few Billion.

    No one stopped the private company and financial backers from going to the Feds and undercutting the entire CAHSR project.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No one, except the feds aren’t actually forthcoming with the loans. They haven’t even publicly lit a fire under CAHSR’s ass – “we fear the financial viability of DX [or whatever it is called this month] depends on a direct connection to Los Angeles.”

    joe Reply:

    Forget CAHSRA.

    The private interests apparently had a pitch that was secretly rejected by CAHSRA and what?

    They decided to not pitch this to the Feds – issue a press release or make a superficial offer for funding.

    I have an explanation – its bullshit. This entire I-5 offer is bullshit or they’d re-pitch it to the Feds. But the feds are slow to give out billions…so they went home sad and never came back.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    They still can come forward with any specific proposal they wish. They can build HSR from LA to San Diego, from SF to Sac, Dallas to Houston, Chicago to Detroit, Miami to Orlando, Toronto to Montreal, or anywhere else in North America.

    Did someone hurt their feelings so now they went back to France to sulk?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Piss off the French, piss off the Japanese, and pretty soon you’re left with a choice of America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals … or … America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals.

    Would you like your shit sandwich with extra dysentery or with extra cholera? PB or Bechtel? Decisions, decisions.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s very very difficult to piss people off when their paycheck depends on not getting pissed off.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Please, spend an hour with them.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Here’s my take, for what it is worth and sans any substantiation.

    Alstom-SNCF considers itself unfairly treated by BART when the contract for new cars was awarded to Bombardier. Recognizing(correctly)that BART equates to PB and reflecting back to PB’s out of hand rejection of the I-5 HSR proposal and and seeing the summary firing of Van Ark, SNCF-Alstom concludes PB is deeply hostile, intramural, politicized, and infused with the NIH syndrome.

    When it comes to awarding a contract for rolling stock, PB will insist on either a first-tier supplier so desperate as to put up with no talking back to PB allowed or one already in the US that PB has already leveraged. I’d put my money on Bombardier.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And of course holding back any critical comment until after Jerry’s putative legislative victory was basal commercial and political etiquette.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Are you implying that anyone working at SNCF is behind this story? They were mortified when it came out. Obviously some ex-SNCF America employees spoke on the record to the LAT, but they were told to shut up and are not talking anymore, and nobody currently at SNCF (Paris or California) is talking at all, on the record or off. SNCF is a profit-seeking group of professionals, not a jealous lover – they have no interest in stirring the shit. This all came out against their wishes.

    synonymouse Reply:


    A pattern of rejection indicates a negative mindset requiring a great investment of time and energy with dubious hope of success in overcoming. The threat of you won’t work in this town anymore is expected and empty.

    Besides PB’s hubris is notorious – they could not abide advice from a more experienced outfit.

    joe Reply:

    “SNCF is a profit-seeking group of professionals, not a jealous lover”

    Ha ha ha. Look twit – companies litigate when they lose government contracts. They have a right to challenge don’t slink away like kittens. They complain and they compete again and again.

    Now Issa and his oversight committee can subpoena the SNCF and put them under oath. Any critic that wants to get the truth out has a path forward.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You have a fetish for Issa.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    And with funding to be guaranteed by the State of California.

    If they had promised to build the line with all private money (no reporting suggests that they did) and with no need for a revenue guarantee (reporting is that they required a revenue guarantee), then fine, take the line and use the state money to build and Express Corridor through the San Joaquin.

  12. Paul Druce
    Jul 12th, 2012 at 09:57

    What exactly is Robert’s source for the revenue guarantee claim? Also, it is incredibly disingenuous to refer to SNCF having its rating downgraded when that rating is still higher than the state of California’s.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    I too would like to know. Anonymous sources are necessary when you’re doing this sort of reporting, but you should at least give a general idea of who it is and what kind of affiliation they have. For example, in my post on my blog (which Robert misrepresented), I said my anonymous source was intimately familiar with SNCF’s side of things. Would be nice if Robert would do the same.

  13. Alon Levy
    Jul 12th, 2012 at 10:33

    Exactly what kind of revenue guarantee did SNCF demand?

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    We know from his years as BART board member and president that Dan Richard will say or do anything to advance and protect contractors’ interests, and will never act in the public interest against them.

    So, how about “imaginary” revenue guarantees? Sounds about right. It’s certainly consistent with the historical record.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    From their presentation (linked to above TRANSDEF) in the ramp up stage the operator is credited with cost-plus and operator and authority divide profits/losses, so in the event of a loss in the ramp up stage, the authorities profit/loss share times the loss is the subsidy to the operator.

    Following ramp-up, the operation is monetized and if the initial operator does not win the PPP contract, it receives and exit fee.

    While its an approach that does have strengths to recommend it, according to the SNCF powerpoint linked to by TRANSDEF, its an approach ruled out by the Prop1a-08 conditions.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    The only potential subsidies are during the initial years when the Authority might very well be subsidizing operations anyhow without violating Prop 1A.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There is no assurance of that when the contract is signed, is there? The only assurance is that if the initial operator is not the final operator, they receive a quit fee.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Design and construction doesn’t begin until the contract is signed, is how it appears in the 2010 document to me. After the winning bid is chosen, the winner gets 12 months to do the “Pre-Development Study,” which basically means doing its due diligence, and only after they sign it does the construction begin (Step 2: Design & Construct Network). And construction doesn’t begin if they don’t agree to shoulder the revenue risk.

    At least, this is my interpretation of the document. What’s yours?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    They only agree to shoulder part of the revenue risk, because in Step 3, ramp up operations are cost-plus with profits and losses shared between operator and authority.

    Unless the deal includes Federal funding in advance to cover potential ramp-up losses, its signing the State of California up to potentially subsidize operation of the corridor, which critics of the original Prop1 insisted be ruled out by Prop1a.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    First of all, again, here’s the link to the document we’re talking about (I don’t think everyone saw it): this is the infamous 2010 presentation that was given by SNCF to CHSRA – not the 2009 that was leaked a while ago, which my sources (plural!) say SNCF America – i.e., the people who were interfacing between Dan Richard and SNCF – had nothing to do with.

    Brian Reply:

    Point of correction: Dan Richard was appointed in 2011. Arnold was Governor in 2010 and called the shots then.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Now: Where are you seeing a cost-plus mechanism for ramp-up?? I’m seeing on page 11 & 19 that only the design & construction of the system are cost-plus, with both the consortium and the gov’t contributing funds (this is I suppose where the bidding comes in: whoever offers to invest the most money upfront gets it, assuming they’re technically proficient), with “ramp up revenue service” being “return on capital invested” – i.e., the consortium gets to collect profits from the operationally-profitable service until they recoup their initial investment, at which point the profits get shared with the state. It says that the “monetization process” – i.e., recouping the initial investment – should be over by 2023 (ha!), but I suppose that if ridership falls short, they just keep collecting operating profits until they do recoup it (if ever! this is where the ridership/revenue risk comes in!).

    So now – what’s your understanding of it?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Page 16 says cost-plus in the ramp-up phase. Yes, I know it contradicts page 19. Not knowing anything about financing I’d guess page 19 has a typo in the table or something.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    Not only page 19, but also page 11. Very bizarre.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Its not a typo ~ returns can be negative is all. Profits are shared with the authority ~ losses are as well. Cost plus implies that the threshold for loss sharing is fall short of the cost of operation plus the agreed cost-plus margin, so if it falls short of cost-plus, the operator eats part of the shortfall and the authority makes good the rest (between cost and cost plus, the authority is making good on a loss that is not there in a cash flow sense).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well, this looks more like operating deficit risk sharing than like revenue guarantee. In other words: there is a cost-plus threshold agreed upon in advance; if there is an operating deficit, or an operating profit that is insufficient to cover cost-plus, then SNCF eats part of the loss and California the other part. In a revenue guarantee regime, California would have to eat the entire shortfall from the specified threshold.

    What am I missing here?

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, its “operating deficit risk sharing” which is another way of saying its a partial revenue guarantee. That is, rather than making up 100% of the shortfall below $X, the authority promises to make up 30% or 50% or 70%.

    If they are not allowed to pay a subsidy, then they are not allowed to enter into a contract that promises that there will be a payment of a subsidy contingent on level of ridership.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The CHSRA “plan” is to have taxpayers assume all operating losses. I can’t believe anyone with two neurons to rub together believe that is preferable to a PPP partial-revenue guarantee.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    As a peer review report stressed last year, the CHSRA Business Plan is a “Business Plan” without a Business Model, so the thing to have a plan about is completely undefined.

    PPP are sometimes effective ways to do things, but in the US they are more often than not a way to screw the taxpayers. The “no subsidy” provision could be seen in part as clumsy way to try to avoid some of those kinds of abuses. Of course the “no staffing” policy that the Legislature and previous Governor took with the authority locks in place a whole other set of public-private “partnership” abuses, such as get our resident foamer Richard M foaming at the mouth.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The terms of Prop 1A forbid a subsidy, but do not say what has to happen in case operating revenues are too low. Fares can be raised, but only up to a point; if there is no fare level at which revenues exceed operating costs, the system cannot go on.

    I believe the current way to resolve this is to say that the system must prove beforehand that revenues will exceed operating costs, using a ridership and revenue model that’s acceptable to the appropriate regulatory agencies. However, the same standard can be applied to a cost-plus guarantee: if the model shows the revenues will be enough to cover the cost-plus threshold, it should be legal for the same reason it’s legal to build now without time travel into the future to ascertain that the system will indeed be operationally profitable.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    There’s no telling what the “current way to resolve this” is: it depends (1) on the business model adopted and (2) on what stands up in court as a defensible reading of Prop1a. I aint no lawyer, so I’m not going to guess where things stand with respect to (2).

    In any event, I sure as hell don’t want the CHSRA operating the trains, or commissioning the operation of the trains on a cost-plus basis, so if (2) makes it harder for CHSRA to do so, that’s fine by me.

    The least legal risk business model is to franchise the operation on a strict no-subsidy basis, as with the Florida deal. The flip side of that is, of course, that even though the authority would, of course, like a share of the profit, it won’t get as high a profit sharing on the upside due to the assumption of downside risk by the franchise bidders, but that’s Prop1a and the efforts to add sufficient nanny clauses to limit various downside risks seen by various state legislators.

    And of course if its a franchise bidding process, then trying to pin down the profit share is just a toothpaste squeezing exercise ~ the extra risk imposed on the franchise bidder decreases the value of the bid, so, eg, demanding a larger profit share may result in a lower bid of up front capital investment.

    joe Reply:


    Hey while it is fun to play Scooby-Doo and those meddling kids — why not file a complaint with the GAO’s CAHSRA investigation and also fire a letter of to Issa’s committee on government oversight?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The party that canceled Florida HSR while keeping SunRail? Yeah, they totally care about good government.

    joe Reply:

    The Party that wants to fuck the HSR program.

    You think Rep. Issa is disinterested in posturing if he had a real scandal for once – not interested in the so called wasted 100B by showing the state rejected a free train ?

    The GAO is investigating the CAHSRA. What is the excuse for not engaging them?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The party that doesn’t give a crap about the facts, as long as they can be used to bash any kind of government spending that goes to people who aren’t oil barons, farmers, or defense contractors. I sincerely doubt any good, or even any information that’s personally useful to me, could come out of Congressional investigations.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Note that the monetization process is what would be the bidding for the franchise in the build then franchise model.

    You’ve got (2) an operator overseeing the building in hopes of operating it, (3) doing the initial operation, which establishes a sufficient baseline for private investment banking evaluation of the value of the ongoing operation and (4) bidding for the ongoing operation, with the operator-builder getting a quit fee if they are not the winning bidder.

    That’s tilted to the operator-builder being the winning bidder for the franchise ~ their bid does not have to cover the cost of the quit fee ~ but the State is protected from the operator-builder taking them completely to the cleaners in the operating terms once the corridor has been built, since that opens the door to someone else outbidding them for the ongoing operating contract.

    The devil is in the details, always, but in general terms there’s a lot to like in that approach in a state that perennially understaffs its public oversight expertise.

  14. Reality Check
    Jul 12th, 2012 at 12:06

    Burlingame’s Gary Patton-advised High Speed Boondoggle ran another one of their anti-HSR full-page ads in today’s not-available-online Palo Alto Daily Post.

    The text of the full-page ad reads:

    On Friday some local legislators voted to spend $68 billion on high speed rail while reducing funding for health services and public safety. One courageously voted “No.”

    Assemblyman Rich Gordon – YES
    Assemblyman Jerry Hill – YES
    State Senator Joe Simitian – NO
    State Senator Tom Ammiano – YES
    State Senator Mark Leno – YES
    State Senator Leland Yee – YES

    In November some of them are up for re-election. Any questions?

    YESONHSR Reply:

    The same people(Nimbys) behind all the anti-hsr rail signs in the valley..And Ammiano is in the assembley and for SF he could care what Burlingame nimbys say..

  15. synonymouse
    Jul 12th, 2012 at 12:15

    PAMPA’s future:

    The ‘B” is actually the “B” in PB.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Because non-automobile transportation is BAD so we should not have it?

    synonymouse Reply:

    The “B” in BAD also stands for the bath PB has been giving California. Its jealous “pig-headed” monopoly is unhealthy for the Golden State, and the SNCF scandal is just another manifestation.

    Jon Reply:

    So BART is responsible for homelessness now? Wow. I’ve heard people complain that BART caused gentrification in the Mission, but not the other way round.

    synonymouse Reply:

    BART did not create the homeless; it just attracts them to this location.

  16. Useless
    Jul 12th, 2012 at 14:52

    In a fascinating Chinese article, the Russian railway minister told Chinese that his country was not going to buy Chinese bullet trains, but would welcome Chinese investment in track construction. In other word, just the Chinese money, but not the Chinese equipment and construction companies. The article also confirms that Siemens banned the export of its CRH3-derivatives, just like Kawasaki which banned the export of its CRH2-derivatives. So no Chinese bullet trains in foreign markets.

    Since the CAHSRA and FRA too will ban Chinese equipment in US HSR projects, I doubt the Chinese would come up with state-backed financing. That leaves just Japan and Korea as two possible viable bidders with a state-backed financing. Of two, Korea is more viable of two because they sell UIC-spec train sets and ETCS signaling system. The SNCF proposal was a counter to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2010 trip to Asia seeking Asian state financing for the CA HSR construction.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    The Japanese have left California – they are not participating in the project. Ostensibly they left when the CHSRA decided to go with a blended plan, but a source I spoke to said that didn’t make any sense, and he thought it was code for basically what the French were quoted in the LAT article as saying – that they cut and run when they realized the CHSRA was not willing to go with Altamont, I-5 (or the west-of-99 proposal), or the Grapevine (or did that decision come later?).

    William Reply:

    Nope, they just started “Japan California High Speed Rail Consortium”, and the leading JR company is JR East, which has experience with track sharing with conventional trains due to its mini-Shinkansen lines:

    The website went online on 7/5/2012. Maybe they got advanced knowledge that the state legislature would release the fund?

    Useless Reply:

    @ Stephen Smith

    > that they cut and run when they realized the CHSRA was not willing to go with Altamont, I-5 (or the west-of-99 proposal)

    Shinkansen model is that of an express commuter rail; the train stops in like every 20 minutes instead of a non-stop travel like TGV. Japanese are very much comfortable with the current route. What they are not comfortable with is the blended traffic, for which they have no experience in. Yes Shinkansen trains do run in shared tracks on some lines but at a slow speed.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s true that the top speed planned for the Blended Plan is much higher than that of the Mini-Shinkansen (110 mph vs. 130 km/h), but in Japan legacy speeds are constrained by much worse curves than in California and also by stopping distance regulations, which do not exist in the US.

    Jarrett Reply:

    When are the Germans/DB going to get involved? Don’t they have lots of experience with sharing at high speeds?

    Eric M Reply:

    Guessing we will see a lot more involvement from Europe and Asia now that funding has been approved by the legislature. Until now, outsiders were not even sure the bonds were going to be released from the state. It definitely takes a government/private partnership on a project this size and complex. Once the wheel starts turning (dirt moving), the discussions will ramp up.

    Useless Reply:

    @ Jarrett

    > When are the Germans/DB going to get involved?

    When Angela Merkel provides a state loan guarantee worth $20 billion or more, which of course won’t happen. DB, like SNCF, would have to resort to private financing, which makes them noncompetitive against Asian bidders with state loans/loan guarantees.

    This is why the winning bidder will be 99% Asian, be it Japanese, Korean, or Chinese(assuming they promise to not use Chinese made equipment)

    Gianny Reply:

    It would seem that most points to Japan. From earthquake technology, efficiency and safety record it would not be a bad choice!

    William Reply:

    The Chinese HSR is a mixture of Japanese and European (Alstrom & Bombardier) technologies, i.e. if one company refused to sell one key component, they’ll just buy from another company, so most likely challenges to Chinese HSR technology won’t stand up in court.

    Also, the Chinese Train Control System is a derivative of ETCS, and one of the main supplier is a joint company that is majority owned by Bombardier.

    The issue for China HSR is not the hardware, but the people who are operating it. All the accidents are caused by people bypassing automatic systems without taking proper precautions.

    Useless Reply:

    @ William

    > if one company refused to sell one key component, they’ll just buy from another company

    And both(German and Japanese) are refusing to permit Chinese to export the derivative of their models.

    > most likely challenges to Chinese HSR technology won’t stand up in court.

    Surely it will. Just one confirmed infringement can ban the product.

    > Also, the Chinese Train Control System is a derivative of ETCS

    It is not a ETCS. Only Korea and Taiwan(Which is a HSR technology importer) has implemented ETCS in its railways, regular rails in Korea(HSR is TVM430, the legacy of TGV) and HSR in Taiwan. This is the reason why it’s always Some European(Either German or French) vs Korean in international HSR bidding contests like in Brazil and Russia, because only Koreans offer UIC-spec train sets and ETCS signaling equipment in Asia.

    William Reply:

    Actually Taiwan uses a version of Japanese ATC-NS modified with bi-directional running capability, which caused some controversy between the Japanese companies and THSR during construction.

    About the Korean part: a lot of Korean export trains uses Japanese components, and KTX trains is probably in the same boat as CRH trains, i.e. buy technology from other countries, modified a little or even “reverse engineering it” and claimed those technology as their own…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Pretty sure the HEMU-400X is entirely domestic.

    Useless Reply:

    @ Alon Levy

    > Pretty sure the HEMU-400X is entirely domestic.

    Not necessarily. The KTX-II had a 89% local content(Nothing is 100% local, not even Shinkansens with a few German parts), and the HEMU-430X may or may not necessarily have a higher local content. But that may not matter, as all the non-Korean parts are either bought off the shelf or are specifically engineered for the KTX-II and HEMU-430X; they are not TGV parts.

    The legal trouble with China’s CRH380 series is that they use the parts, or replicas, from Kawasaki and Siemens train sets, as well as a significant portion of the train structural designs.

    Useless Reply:

    @ William

    > Actually Taiwan uses a version of Japanese ATC-NS modified with bi-directional running capability

    Ok, so Japanese switched from ETCS after taking over the project.

    > and KTX trains is probably in the same boat as CRH trains, i.e. buy technology from other countries, modified a little or even “reverse engineering it” and claimed those technology as their own

    No it is not. The KTX-II is entirely legal by the US standard. Such is that Alstom never disputed the KTX-II’s legality while competing against it in Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Florida. The difference between China’s CRH380 and the KTX-II approach is that CRH380s are modifications of their licensor’s designs and contain the licensor’s design, while the KTX-II is engineered from scratch and contains no Alstom design.

  17. DavidM
    Jul 12th, 2012 at 15:54

    Huh, Richard’s letter was on the CHSRA website earlier today, now it’s gone.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    It displays there for me

    DavidM Reply:

    Looks like the link on the CHSRA front page has been removed, but the document is still accessible. for those interested.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Uh oh. Better notify Winston Smith.

  18. trentbridge
    Jul 12th, 2012 at 16:46

    According to the State Controllers Office – California’s total General Fund revenues in June 2012 were $247 million better than expected in the latest estimates.

    Perhaps we can have our cake and eat it too! Support CAHSR and fund all the state’s programs.

    ” Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause – it’s rising tax revenues from a growing economy”

  19. Reality Check
    Jul 13th, 2012 at 01:04

    A new Ralph Vartabedian HSR story in the LA Times today: UCLA study of Japan’s bullet train raises questions about California project
    A UCLA analysis of Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train and its impact on the growth of cities along its route calls into question claims by state officials that California’s high-speed rail project will create up to 400,000 jobs.

    Written by Jerry Nickelsburg, senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast, the study said there may be other justifications for bullet train service between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the $68-billion project as an engine of economic growth “will have only a marginal impact at best.”


    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.

    If the study’s predictions are accurate, it would undermine one of the major justifications for the California project.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I originally thought Vartabedian’s criticisms may have come from his inexperience, his lack of exposure to transportation issues; it’s understandable how many reporters would treat this as “just another example of government waste.” However, what stands out is that there is no balance, no reporting, on the cost of the status quo. That isn’t hard to check, it isn’t hard to research; many of us here have done just that, including myself, and others have done some remarkable cost accounting exercises.

    Somebody needs to tell Vartabedian that’s something he should look into as well.

    A sampling of comments (nine showing at the time of this post, three of them by the ever-prolific Davide Florez, though those are not here):

    Bruyerebrit at 10:09 PM July 12, 2012

    “Unbelievably lazy, dishonest journalism. Is anyone awake on the LA Times editorial board? This paper increasingly looks like a Murdoch publication. By the way guys, how about showing a bit of journalistic integrity and class and publishing the letter from the Board Chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority, which sharply (and appropriately) rebuked your newspaper for your accusations that the Authority ignored the French National Railway’s advice?

    “I’ll be shocked if you publish this post, but I can hope. No, I’m not connected with any politician, lobbyist or CHSRA in any way. I’m just a California taxpayer who happens to believe in High Speed Rail. I believe even more that quality journalism is an essential element in a world full of information clutter.”

    dhodun at 9:17 PM July 12, 2012

    “Really guys? How about diggint a bit deeper instead of as soon as a piece to slam HSR comes up it goes live without really looking deeply into it. I am flaberghasted by the lack of quality journalsim.

    “Japan was already densley developed as is. Where could they grow? The bullet train was to improve the speeds to get in-between major cities and expand capacity as the Tokaido Main Line was at capacity. Did you also consider linking the UCLA study to the online article for people to get a chance to look into where the study got their information from? In the Central Valley, this could spurn development near stations and make it more attractive for those wanting to live near the Bay Area or LA Basin to commute via HSR and make these cities middle areas. A better study would be on the city of Lleida, Spain and the impacts of the AVE since it is more similar to California’s situation than Japan’s. Also did you guys consider looking at France, Germany, the UK? Along with how they have much more comprehensive networks for transit than basically all the major cities in California?

    “Actually make a comprehensive article instead of just another piece to say you guys hate HSR. Most of us get that already.”

  20. Reality Check
    Jul 13th, 2012 at 01:19

    Amtrak Relying On U.S. Funding To Attract Bullet-Train Investors

    Amtrak, the U.S. long-distance passenger railroad, is turning its sights from private investors toward governments to fund the beginning of a $151 billion plan for bullet trains between Northeast cities by 2040.

    The Washington-based, taxpayer-supported railroad will need “significant” government support to carry out its plan to boost train capacity and increase speeds to 220 miles (354 kilometers) per hour between Washington and Boston, Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman said in an interview.

    “We knew it was going to take a significant effort on the part of government at some level or all levels,” Boardman said yesterday. “We know for sure that needs to come sooner than a public-private partnership that’s often talked about.”

    Amtrak is trying to upgrade its infrastructure, some a century old, on its busiest corridor and establish the first U.S. rail service to be considered “high-speed” by international standards

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