Who Will Save the TGV From the Deficit Errorists?

Dec 28th, 2014 | Posted by

Yes, there’s lots of California HSR news to cover in a surprisingly eventful December 2014, and I’ve been mostly offline in Southern California and not updating the blog. But before I catch up on that news, I want to draw attention to a truly absurd and alarming development: HSR denialism is now spreading to France, home to the widely acknowledged success that is the TGV.

As The Independent reports, French president François Hollande is under criticism for a proposed TGV line that is being called a “vanity project” and a “train to nowhere.” But those claims are based on a politically motivated shift in accounting that, if applied to other transportation projects, would make every piece of modern infrastructure appear equally flawed:

The President has pledged privately to local politicians that the €1.8bn Poitiers-Limoges line will be built. The French state watchdog has concluded that the project is a high-speed branch line and economically absurd. The government must make a decision by 12 January.

Argument is already raging about an iconoclastic report from the Court of Auditors – the country’s financial watchdog – which suggests that all existing high-speed lines in France are losing money if the debt on their building costs is taken into consideration.

Well, that’s a rather important “if” to include. This is a typical attack made on rail projects in the Anglo world, where unlike roads and airports, where the debt taken on to build them is just assumed to be a necessary cost of having a modern society, debt taken on to build rail is suddenly seen as risky and unnecessary.

The TGV has a 30 year record of success in hauling large numbers of passengers and returning profits to SNCF. But that is coming under attack as even France, one of the last bastions of reason in a world gone insane with austerity, now falls prey to the idea that public debt for infrastructure is somehow bad:

Can a struggling country afford so many new railway lines? The recent Court of Auditors’ report was intended as a danger signal.

The court suggested that the French network had already been allowed to sprawl too far and too fast. Of six high-speed lines studied, none had reached its promised target for passengers carried, the court said.

Although the train services themselves were profitable, no French high-speed line – not even the pioneer line from Paris to Lyon – could be said to be covering its total capital investment and maintenance costs. Worse, the court said, the claimed wider economic benefits of high-speed rail had not fully materialised.

The Court of Auditors report is absurd on its face – if they are claiming that the TGV itself is somehow wasteful, if they believe that infrastructure must cover its own capital costs as well, then they are calling into question the viability of the modern French state.

But maybe that’s precisely the point.

This is probably better described as a case of “deficit errorism” – panic over public debt – than “HSR denialism,” but the two are fundamentally linked anyway. After the crash of 2008, decades of commonplace practices regarding public infrastructure suddenly came under fire. Rarely in the 20th century did anyone ever argue that a piece of infrastructure must cover its capital costs. In fact, it was even considered acceptable for infrastructure to not even cover its operations costs. Public debt would be used to build the infrastructure, which in turn would be subsidized so that as many people as possible could use it.

This was the basis of the TGV itself. Public debt, long considered a beneficial part of a modern financial system, was used to build France’s pioneering HSR system in part to reduce national dependence on oil imports (keep in mind that the decision to build the TGV took place amid the 1970s oil crisis) as well as to bring the disparate parts of France closer together in the modern era. TGV ticket prices were heavily subsidized starting by a Socialist-Communist coalition government in 1981 so as to encourage high ridership. The point of the TGV wasn’t to make money, though it certainly did that for SNCF. The point was to move lots of people around France rapidly and without burning oil. And it was a huge success copied all over the world.

After 2008, however, all that was no longer seen as politically acceptable. France had been the butt of Anglo and German jokes for years as a sclerotic economy plagued by high unemployment and high public debt. But after 2008, that was now true of the entire Western world. And France, having refused to embrace austerity, had managed to keep its standard of living high and avoid the kinds of social distress that their dystopian neighbors across the Channel, or even just across the Pyrenees, are now experiencing.

But as the Court of Auditors report is showing, even France is beginning to succumb to the pressures of deficit errorism – the idea that public debt is now bad, and it must be purged, even at the cost of a modern economy, even if doing so means seeing the successful TGV as somehow a failure.

Thankfully, there are those in France who are fighting back:

Some of these conclusions are disputed by the government, by the state railway company, the SNCF, and by trade unions.

Bernard Aubin, head of the First rail-workers’ union and a columnist and blogger on railway issues, told The Independent: “The report is a disgrace. Does the Court of Auditors ask whether new motorways are profitable? Or new airports?”

“All high-speed rail services in France are profitable. It is only when you include the whole capital cost – the money invested not just by the railways but also national and local government and Brussels – that you can argue that they make a loss.

“The lines were built as a public investment in the economy of the country. It is misleading to charge debt on all the capital cost to the operational bottom line.”

Aubin’s blog can be read here. But his argument as quoted above is plenty sufficient, and he makes all the important points succinctly. The Court of Auditors is surely not going to argue that France’s motorways or Charles de Gaulle airport is somehow a failure.

Or maybe they will. Deficit errorism isn’t confined to an attack on a new TGV line. It’s already hurting TGV ridership:

The auditor’s report does make one important argument, however. The infrastructure arm of French railways – the equivalent of Network Rail – has a mountain of €35bn of accumulated debt. Most of this comes from its share of building the new high-speed lines.

To service the debt, it has been forced to increase steeply its “toll fees” to SNCF.* Ticket prices have soared. Passenger numbers have fallen. Much of the non-TGV rail network has fallen into disrepair.

*The Independent article appears to be in error here; it is SNCF that has had to increase its toll fees to Réseau Ferré de France, which owns the infrastructure.

Notice the use of passive voice here: the TGV “has been forced” to raise its payments in order to reduce public debt. By whom? That’s a rather important change in practices that reflects a clear move away from the policy under Mitterrand of subsidizing fares, a policy that was very successful in generating both riders and profits.

Making the TGV pay extra to RFF to try and reduce construction debt is a ridiculous policy that should never have been pursued. Ticket revenue should be used to pay for rail operations, though ideally those operations would also be subsidized by government. The experience of Taiwan HSR, which went bankrupt soon after it opened because it tried to recover construction costs through ticket fares, shows that this approach just doesn’t work. You can’t pay off €35 billion with ticket fares – not without raising the fares so high that you crash ridership. Which is exactly what’s happening to the TGV.

Hollande has broken with his Socialist Party’s legacy and already embraced several austerity policies. As a result, his approval ratings are among the lowest in the history of the Fifth Republic. He has the power to reverse the policy requiring the TGV to pay higher fees to SNCF regarding the public debt, though doing so might risk a confrontation with the European Union. But Hollande will have to take the chance if he’s going to stop the TGV from being undermined by foolish and flawed debt policies.

I hope Hollande will do that, as well as reject the Court of Auditors’ report and move ahead with the Poitiers-Limoges TGV line. He has two and a half years left before re-election, and if he or his party have any hope of winning, it’s time they rejected the ruinous policies of deficit errorism and austerity. Instead, they should follow the path of their successful predecessors and keep building TGV lines – and lowering the fares so everyone can ride.

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  1. Gag Halfrunt
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 09:25
    #1

    I’m afraid you’ve made a serious mistake in the paragraph beginning “Making the TGV pay extra to SNCF…”

    SNCF is the company that operates the TGV and other train services. It pays track access fees to the infrastructure owner, Réseau Ferré de France. Thus it is the fees paid by SNCF to RFF that have been increased to pay off the construction debt, which was transferred to RFF when it was established in 1997.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Thanks for catching that – the error appeared in the Independent article, and I added a note to the blockquote as well as revised the following paragraph.

  2. Observer
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 09:30
    #2

    This logic or illogic (as in il-thought out) sounds all too familiar, and France needs to get away from it. If this same logic were applied to highways, they all would be toll roads, and fees would be increased proportionately to pay the original construction costs. The fact that this logic is applied disproportionately to rail to me is an admission that rail does indeed bring in funds – more so than highways ever could – bring on the toll roads and proportionately match the funds that rail bring in!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There are toll roads all over the Northeast and Midwest that paid off their construction costs with tolls. The yahoos out in the hinterlands saw what a good thing they were and figured out a way to get people in the Northeast and Midwest to pay for theirs.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Nearly all the highways here are toll roads. It’s not like in the US, or in Germany, where the motorways are free, and about as congested as you’d expect untolled roads to be.

    Remember, this report is produced by French people, and is about the social and financial benefits of future high-speed rail construction in France. The people who wrote the report were not writing for an American or British audience.

    Leroy Reply:

    Free?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, free. Nearly all freeways in the US are untolled.

    Derek Reply:

    You can’t pay off €35 billion with ticket fares – not without raising the fares so high that you crash ridership.

    If the market equilibrium price of a fare is below what’s needed to pay off the construction loan, then this is proof that they’ve overbuilt their system. Econ 101 says if you reduce supply, the market equilibrium price will rise.

    The fact that a country has overbuilt its freeways and airports doesn’t justify overbuilding HSR. “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” as they say.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    “Econ 101” should not be the basis of building a transportation infrastructure.

    Derek Reply:

    What is the right amount of HSR to build?

    A competitive market would suggest the amount where the ticket prices cover the construction and operating costs.

    The zero-one-infinity rule would suggest either zero HSR, one HSR line, or infinite HSR lines.

    A HSR advocate might say, “whatever is politically feasible, even if the fares don’t cover the costs.” But this same way of thinking is why we have freeways and airports in abundance such that HSR hasn’t been politically feasible in the USA for almost a half century after the Shinkansen was invented.

    So how would you determine the right amount of HSR to build?

    Howard Reply:

    Whatever amount PPP are willing to invest in. I think the most rational balance would be 1/3 by local governments (State, County and City), matched by 1/3 by the Federal Government, and finally matched by a private investment of 1/3. If private investor’s do not think that the new high speed rail line or extension will even pay back 1/3 of its construction costs then it should not be built. Some others would say that at least 1/2 should be repaid. The Federal Government should not contribute more than the local governments or private investor’s share. The Federal Government should allocate Federal High Speed Rail Funds each year based on which projects can most likely pay off most of their construction debt. This means letting the free market determine which high speed rail lines should be build through private investor’s risk and operating profit analysis. The same should be done for new toll roads and airports.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Local taxpayers pay Federal taxes too. If it’s two thirds Federal and one third local no one needs to make a profit. The fares will be lower or the service better or the bonds will be paid off quicker or a combination of all of the above. When the bonds are paid off one third of the profits don’t get siphoned off to people who want to socialize the risk and privatize the profits. Which makes it even cheaper to lower the fares or improve service.
    If this is such a oogly good idea why don’t we do it with airports or plain ol’ ports or highways or sports stadiums?

    Eric Reply:

    “The zero-one-infinity rule would suggest either zero HSR, one HSR line, or infinite HSR lines.”

    Sorry, this isn’t software design. There are all sorts of different possible corridors with different travel demands, construction costs, etc. Some are profitable and some are not. No reason that the number should have to conform to the rule you’re taking way out of context.

    Derek Reply:

    The zero-one-infinity rule “suggests that arbitrary limits on the number of instances of a particular entity should not be allowed.” Do you feel that this rule should only apply to software, or is pulling numbers out of thin air a responsible way to write laws such as the suspiciously round 2.00% limit on property tax increases under Proposition 13?

    Eric Reply:

    First of all, this is a useful rule of thumb for programming, not an absolute rule of nature.

    Second of all, in economics there are many things whose quantity is neither 0, 1, or infinity. The number of US citizens, the number of cars sold per year, the number of companies offering internet access in my city, the number of dollars to buy a barrel of oil, and many more which you can think of. The supply and demand curves have to intersect somewhere, and it’s usually not at exactly 0 or 1.

    I would love if Prop 13 didn’t exist, but that 2.00% figure sounds like to me like an understandable compromise between those who want the tax never to rise and those who want it to account for inflation at the very least.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s people who were lucky enough to buy early lowering their taxes the longer they hold onto the property. Corporations never die. They will be able to finagle keeping their assessment long after any natural person is dead.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    And many individuals, especially wealthier ones, hold their property in trusts to ensure its value never needs be reassessed no matter how it is disposed of.

    My compromise would have been to peg it to something – wage growth, consumer price index, S&P500; or phase in changes over 10-year spans, so that boom cycles are properly balanced out by bust cycles.

    J. Wong Reply:

    And finagle they do. So suppose a corporation owns a building and they want to sell it. They create a new, wholly owned “holding” corporation to which they transfer ownership of the building. Totally legal, and not a taxable event. Then they sell said corporation whose value is based on the only asset it holds, the building, for a price accounting for that. Since it was the holding corporation that got sold not the building, no assessment increase. Viola.

    There’s no damn reason any entity other than an individual should have ever been included under Prop 13. The reality was that it was always a scam for corporations that they got passed by including individuals, but that was never their primary motivation. So that’s the way it goes: Those with the money screw those without.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    That’s not unusual in many states. Something to do with liability. And the accounting is kept separate. Makes it easier to account for the gain or the loss when it’s sold.

    Derek Reply:

    Second of all, in economics there are many things whose quantity is neither 0, 1, or infinity. The number of US citizens…

    …is not limited by any arbitrary number, so we’ll call that “infinity.”

    that 2.00% figure sounds like to me like an understandable compromise between those who want the tax never to rise…

    …in nominal dollars. (It can still rise in real dollars despite the 2% limit.)

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The zero-one-infinity rule would suggest …

    So how would you determine the right amount of HSR to build?

    By using the most elementary linear algebra, obviously.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The right amount that allows us to eliminate fossil fuels as a method of powering travel between cities.

    Derek Reply:

    “Zero fossil fuel usage” conforms to the zero-one-infinity rule.

    So then we need to figure out how to convert the I-5 and SR-99 to electric-only.

    Eric Reply:

    So how much energy should the US use per year? Zero watts, one watt, or an infinite number of watts? I can’t believe you keep trying to push this rule here.

    Derek Reply:

    How about zero watts generated by fossil fuels and as many watts as can be generated economically from renewables?

    Eric Reply:

    “How about zero watts generated by fossil fuels”

    So you’re going to outlaw gas cookers used by hikers? Millions of watt-hours are generated each year by these cookers. Much more than zero watts.

    And before you suggest it, no, lugging around heavy battery packs is not a realistic alternative for long-distance hikers.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density#mediaviewer/File:Energy_density.svg

    Are you going to tell me that there are very few hikers and they use insignificant amounts of energy and so we can ignore their nonzero emissions? That’s actually correct. But it still proves your rule wrong.

    Derek Reply:

    I think campers usually use biofuels to cook their food.

    Eric Reply:

    Not serious hikers.
    http://zenstoves.net/StoveChoices.htm

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    if propane is ten bucks a gallon carrying around DME made from biomass looks much more attractive. So does methanol or ethanol if white gas is priced high.

    Eric Reply:

    Or you could just tax hydrocarbons and use the money to remediate the effects of the resulting CO2. Much more economically efficient. (But I guess if you’re a 0/1/infinity fundamentalist you don’t care about economic efficiency…)

    Mattie F. Reply:

    Electric automobiles! Electric semis! Everything Electric!

    Eric Reply:

    Hybrid semis with catenary on major routes might not be a bad idea.

    Eric Reply:

    Here’s a quick estimate.

    Catenary costs about $2 million/mile to install.

    Trucks get about 6mpg, which costs about $0.5/mile in gas. Assume that electricity is twice as efficient, i.e. can power a truck at $0.25/mile (while being sold at a competitive price of $0.5/mile), thus meaning a $0.25/truck/mile profit.

    A major truck route can serve 125000 trucks per month.
    http://www.thereporter.com/general-news/20130713/new-truck-scales-on-interstate-80-to-open-soon

    If all trucks were hybrids and used the catenary, each mile of catenary could generate 125000*0.25*12=$375k profit per year. Thus it would pay itself off in 5 years.

    Truck lifetime is 3-5 years so it wouldn’t take long for a sufficient number of trucks to appear on the roads, were there a push for them.
    http://www.ttnews.com/articles/printopt.aspx?storyid=20687

    This is a very rough calculation, but the idea seems worth looking into.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Eric, your ‘truck lifetime” citation is from 2008, *looking forward* to 2010.
    Why not get actual data on 2010-compliant trucks?

    You’re also not even considering the cost of electric transmission in all those trucks!!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It gets pricey if you hang it over three lanes of six lanes highway. On the other hand hanging it over existing freight tracks mean you only need to do two tracks for each heavily used route.

    Eric Reply:

    Jonathan, I’m surprise you’re not questioning the most blatant handwaving in the article which I didn’t even bother to look up: “Assume that electricity is twice as efficient”…

    Anyway, I looked further and this is already being tried…
    http://inhabitat.com/siemens-to-test-ehighway-overhead-electric-lines-for-trucks-in-california/

    Adi, correct, I would only recommend over one lane per highway. Putting it over freight tracks also seems like a reasonable idea, although freight trains are more efficient to start out with, so the benefits are a little lower.

    Trucks have the benefit that they can get to any address on existing roads. You’ll never get a train line to your local supermarket, for example. And as long as trucks are going to be used, better to have them emit as little as possible. And if freeways are hooked up to catenary, a relatively small onboard battery will get the truck from the freeway to the supermarket with no emissions at all (the battery can be charged at the supermarket or on the freeway).

    Hybrid motors would be more powerful than existing truck motors, allowing trucks to ascend hills faster and keep traffic moving more smoothly.

    Of course there is the issue of the extremely disproportionate wear trucks put on roads, which now is paid for by taxpayers. Maybe if trucking companies would bear this expense, trains would be so much cheaper that most truck traffic would disappear and this conversation would be unnecessary.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Did they really not teach you about consumer welfare in Econ 101?

    Derek Reply:

    Do you mean like reduced ticket prices for low-income families?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    No, I mean like how some industries can’t capture much consumer surplus via price discrimination, even with monopolies.

    Derek Reply:

    In a competitive market, when people are unwilling to pay 100% of the cost of providing the product or service plus a small amount of profit, the product or service is taken off the market, and people spend their money on something else. Subsidies don’t give people this choice.

    Joe Reply:

    In an ideal competitive market from Econ 101.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Assuming spherical consumers in a vacuum.

    Derek Reply:

    Please explain how this doesn’t happen in the real world.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I tried to explain two comments ago, and based on your “in a competitive market” response decided it was a waste of time since you weren’t willing to listen.

    Joe Reply:

    “Reality” is why they award a Noble prize in economics.

  3. morris brown
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 10:02
    #3

    So who should one believe? The fearless mid 30’s leader for HSR at any cost Robert, or professional economists, totally involved in the French system and who have studied it with vigor.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    FWIW, Dr. Beeching was also a “professional economist”… and Great Britain still suffers from the idiocy of his “report” and what has been done with it.

    The problems start to happen when ideology flows in…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Our railroads were privately owned so our “Beeching” decimation was performed by abandonment starting already in the 20’s and hastened by the Depression.

    You see some rebuilding now with the freight railroads, but mostly adding tracks to main lines. It is expensive and Wall Street hates infrastructure expensive to maintain, taxable and not easy to chuck when business fall off. As it does cyclically.

    Joseph E Reply:

    The railroads abandoned lines in the face of competition from untaxed and often government-subsidized competition from roads, buses and trucking.
    The USA rail system was certainly overbuilt in the 1800’s compared to the needs of the mid 1900’s, considering advancements in road paving and motor vehicles, but the railroads would have done much better without being sabotaged by high taxes, onerous regulations, and government-subsidized competition. They also failed to adapt in a changing environment due to business culture issues and legacy costs.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Many of the lines foamers froth about never made money. Which is why they went bankrupt in 1885 and again in 1897 and again in 1910. Before there were cars and trucks. Or they were part of a bigger system and were sucking subsidies out of the parts that made money.

    Eric Reply:

    They went bankrupt because they were competing with other train lines for a much smaller passenger market. Doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be valuable today (some of them).

    Jerry Reply:

    Who?
    Dick Cheney, of course.
    They will welcome us with open arms.
    The war will pay for itself.

    synonymouse Reply:

    DogLegRail will be profitable.

  4. jedi08
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 10:16
    #4

    This does not prevent the high-speed lines of the buildings in France and the ongoing projects are numerous.

    http://www.lgv-sea-tours-bordeaux.fr/theme/infos-chantier/5
    https://www.youtube.com/user/LGVSEAToursBordeaux

  5. AndrewL-A
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 10:45
    #5

    The requirement that the RFF pay back its construction costs by track access charges is a part of the EU regulations against government subsidies. To escape those would take a lot of effort, much more than just a simple disagreement.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I had a feeling that was the case, which is why I said Hollande would risk a confrontation with the EU if he pursued such a shift. Of course, Hollande has so far not given any sign that he is interested in confronting EU austerity policies.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It has nothing to do with austerity and everything to do with promoting competition. At the railroad level, what this is about is preventing France from subsidizing SNCF (or Veolia) to compete with DB and Germany from subsidizing DB to compete with SNCF. The US has no such rules against state subsidies, and this leads to races to the bottom, as major corporations play states and counties against one another, forcing them to give them major tax breaks and subsidized infrastructure. Under EU rules, Boeing would not be able to threaten to leave Washington if it didn’t get tax breaks, because it would be illegal for Washington and for any other state to give it those tax breaks.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Boeing would simply go out of business, as certain French companies have.

    Joseph E Reply:

    Boeing’s main competitor, Airbus, is subsidized by the EU to a much greater extent:. Too bad Europe’s policy does not extend to International relations
    http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/12/markets/boeing-airbus-wto/

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The EU’s policy on trade with countries that aren’t in Europe is horrendous. Third-world farmers starve because the French farmers insist on getting subsidies and trade protections.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They starve because they aren’t growing enough food. If they had enough food to export some of it to France they would eat it before they starve.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Actually, no, they grow enough food in the sense of growing 2,000 calories per person per day. But what they don’t grow is a balanced, nutritious diet that still leaves them with enough disposable income to buy fancy things like indoor plumbing. That’s what the whole concept of trade is for. I grow corn, you grow beans, we both eat corn and beans and have a complete protein.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I don’t need indoor plumbing to grow a complete diet. People have been doing that since the beginning of the agricultural revolution a few millenia ago. Well before the Romans figured out plumbing. If you have enough water to grow beans you have enough water to grow corn and vice versa. Maize and most beans are New World crops. If you are starving and the only thing around is beans, you eat beans. If the only thing around is corn you eat that. And unless someone teaches you how to make hominy you get pellagra.
    Starving people eat all sorts of peculiar things. I suspect they would eat them before they worry about indoor plumbing. It’s not because they can’t sell their corn to people who grow beans.

  6. adirondacker12800
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 11:06
    #6

    Ticket prices have soared. Passenger numbers have fallen.

    Um um there’s been a depression going on for the past six years. Unemployed people put off flitting to Paris for the weekend. The same way airline passenger numbers fell and motor fuel consumption dropped.

  7. Paul Dyson
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 11:10
    #7

    In the nineteenth century just about every hamlet in the UK wanted to be connected to the railway network and hundreds of miles of branch lines were built, many redundant from the day they opened. Beeching had to cut a lot of this dead wood, as did may of his predecessors. The only time the trains were used to any extent was during the week before closure.
    Now the French provinces have an updated version of this “Railway Mania”. Every town has to have a TGV, justified by business prospects or not. Partly this is the fault of SNCF’s neglect of the rest of the system to pay for the TGV lines. There has to be a balance between incremental improvements to existing routes to serve smaller markets and new high speed routes, otherwise the latter will bankrupt the former.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Okay, but Beeching also removed good lines, like the Great Central Main Line. Not everything that Beeching removed was a branch line to a depopulated village.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Did I say that? This is not a debate on Beeching.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    In North America tiny little suburbs were served by two and sometimes three railroads. The foamers all froth about how great it would be to restore service on the secondary line that was a bad compromise in 1880. That that went bankrupt multiple times before it was abandoned in 1920.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Well, a lot of those suburban lines would’ve been precious today, as the regions they serve grew due to interwar and postwar suburbanization. For example, the Whitestone Branch of the LIRR would have been nice to have.

    The real dead-ends are the lines connecting small towns that declined as people moved to bigger cities. Cape Cod used to have a much longer mainline railroad plus several branches. Since Cape Cod never turned into a major suburb of Boston, those branches would be useless today, with the exception of the one line that was retained, to Hyannis. But in areas that did become major city suburbs, the lines would’ve worked today.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Have you ever been to College Point or Whitestone? It’s single and two family suburban. Bayside with bridges hovering over it. It was built because the rich people in Whitestone were pissed off at the LIRR. Before there were automobiles and buses. Taking the bus to Flushing is faster and more frequent. Which is why they abandoned it.
    The New York, Westchester and Boston made sense in 1910. When people would put up with transferring to the El at 180th St. When automobiles were rich men’s toys. Those suburbanites went out and bought themselves Model Ts or even Buicks so they could drive to the station that had direct service to Grand Central. The Putnam Branch was slow and infrequent. Something suburbanites would put up with if they don’t have a car. They won’t when driving to a Harlem or Hudson line train gets them to Grand Central without transferring at 155th.
    The DL&W went through what is now Maplewood and Millburn in the 1830s. The New Orange Railroad was going to siphon off customers to the CNJ connections. And a third company was busy trying to carve out what is now served by the infrequent 70 bus. Then those nasty electric streetcars came along.
    There are some things that are regrettable – the nice wide straight ROW through Syracuse for instance – but most of what was abandoned didn’t make much sense when it was built. and even less today.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Would College Point and Whitestone have looked that way if train service had continued? Or, better yet, if the branch had been connected to the Flushing Line?

    Likewise, the NYW&B could have succeeded if it had run through to the Hell Gate Line, or to the Lex express, like it does today in the Bronx.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    From the architecture on the streets with buses, College Point and Whitestone developed between the wars. The farmland was out in Fresh Meadows until after WWII.
    The train fills up at Main Street because the buses are coming in from the north, east and south. Sending the bus from College Point to the station in Malba isn’t all that much different than sending the bus to Main Street. Unless you want to run almost empty trains to the water’s edge people will opt for a bus ride that is just as long as the one to Main Street. The only people it would attract are the people within walking distance.

    Joey Reply:

    In the west and Midwest there aren’t many towns that came into existence until there was a railroad there already.

  8. Observer
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 11:15
    #8

    One thing that certain political entities do not understand is the value that public private partnerships can play in transportation infrastructure projects. I honestly believe that this is what the CAHSRA is after – a properly structured PPP. Public funding would start the project and address some of the risk factors, and the private part of it would ensure efficiency. When Jerry Brown uses the term Deniallsts, I think he also refers to this. If the public part of it puts in its share, the private sector part of it will follow. Once this project gets underway, we will see in say within 5 years, how much the private sector is willing to put in and how much more public funding is needed. It will be interesting.

  9. Alon Levy
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 11:20
    #9

    Here is the actual study mentioned on the Independent. Its tone is very different from what the Independent describes; its criticism is more about future LGVs, which with the exception of Sud-Europe-Atlantique serve very small cities (the entire region of Limousin, consisting of not just Limoges but also rural areas, has 750,000 people). Moreover, it makes an electronics before concrete argument against the Paris-Clermont LGV on p. 47, noting that ERTMS could double the capacity of Paris-Lyon for 3% the cost; this is presumably the nebulous ERTMS Level 3, since Paris-Lyon traffic is already 10 tph peak, but ERTMS Level 2 is capable of increasing capacity, if not as high as 20 tph, since the less advanced signaling systems in Japan are capable of 14.

    I encourage everyone to read the study and draw their own conclusions. Of the most relevance to California:

    – On p. 44 the study mentions that employment in Lorraine and Alsace has actually underperformed the rest of France since the LGV Est opened. The TGV turns the provinces into suburbs of the core, rather than developing them.

    – The study does not say that the LGV network is losing money. On the contrary. On p. 95, there’s a table showing that LGVs, especially the LGV Nord, have significantly underperformed their expected financial rates of return, but that these rates are all positive, and with the exception of the LGV Nord high enough to beat any reasonable cost of capital (4%); at no point is there a claim that ridership has underperformed, contrary to the Independent’s claim.

    – On pp. 117-118 the study discusses the debt, noting that it’s not just for new infrastructure. Indeed, the debt of RFF and SNCF is considerably higher than the total cost of construction of all LGVs to date. Instead, the debt has included past maintenance, which the state put on the railroad’s debt books instead of fully funding it at the time. This is similar to the case of JNR’s debt: most of the debt was about past operating losses and not Shinkansen debt; the privatized JRs have to pay interest on Shinkansen construction debt, but the past operating losses were written off and the state wiped that debt.

    In general, it’s a bad idea to rely on Anglophone media (including you, Robert) in learning about France. Its treatment of France is too stereotypical – the UK views France as emblematic of the rest of Europe, merging stereotypes of Germany, Southern Europe, the Low Countries, etc. This then percolates to the US, which views France as the ultimate example of socialism or something. The Independent’s article is not about the TGV. It’s about HS2, with the TGV purely as a stand-in, just as your post is not about the TGV but about California HSR. Brits rarely and Americans never care about French politics from a French perspective; it’s always about local lessons, no matter how inappropriate. The proposed lines to Montpellier and Rennes are marginal, the proposed line to Nice is unaffordably expensive, and someone who’s more rational than me about the prospects of investment in southwestern France would think Sud-Europe Atlantique is also marginal. This says nothing about the desirability of an HSR line to Birmingham and Manchester, two cities that are larger than Lyon, let alone Bordeaux or Toulouse, or one to San Francisco, which is larger than Birmingham and Manchester combined.

    Just as real-world Germany is different from the Anglospheric stereotype of German efficiency, real-world France is different from its stereotypes of socialism. Get out of Paris and look at what places like Limoges and Lille are like (I’m referring to the Lille metro area, not just the few nice blocks around the TGV station). Both Limousin and Nord-Pas de Calais have a per capita income level somewhere between that of Kern County and that of Fresno County, about $21,000 counting only income from work. At the same time, Ile-de-France isn’t far behind the Bay Area. France has lower inequality within regions than anywhere in the US, but its interregional inequality is if anything worse than that of the US in general as well as California in particular.

    A rereading of Orwell’s Notes on Nationalism is in order. The stuff you write about France, you’d never write about California. You’re constantly exposed to California’s social problems – its racism, its noxious brogrammer culture, its interregional inequalities, its horrific school system. But France you’re not exposed to. Like most other Anglophones, you see Paris, and you hear about the public affluence of the TGV and other national symbols; you don’t see the private squalor – the provincial transit systems that outside Lyon are the butt of Northern Europe’s jokes, the unemployment rates in Nord-Pas de Calais, the police brutality, the interregional inequality in education, the completely gutted manufacturing base. You only see the problems that have been happening the last 2 years, and you get to blame them on austerity, even though all of them go back decades or even centuries (the poverty of provincial France goes back to Revolutionary centralization). In your zeal to accuse Hollande ex post of betraying socialism, you forget that he tried to balance the budget by hiking marginal income taxes on the rich to 75%, and that this was stricken down by the top administrative court, the Council of State. He’s done a lot more to try to reduce inequality than Brown, who’s presided over continued growth in public university tuition.

    I see things like this a lot when I read American Jews on Israel: they very obviously ignorant of internal Israeli politics, and think of Israel as the proxy to how they view themselves and how they view the US. It’s the same with France. There’s a country here. It’s not your symbol of socialist success or anything, just as it isn’t UKIP’s symbol of socialist or Eurocratic failure. It has a lot of social problems and social successes that don’t make it to Anglophone media.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Good comments, Alon. Reading the original report (which has been published more than two months ago, and did create some little brouhaha in the French press), helps understanding the situation in a much better way.

    A little bit of nitpicking: I believe to remember reading that, at least southbound, they can squeeze 13 tph on the Paris Sud Est line. But that is indeed the absolute maximum which the current signalling system can manage. So, ERTMS would, not quite, but almost double the capacity.

    If I remember correctly, ETCS Level 3 is essentially including the continuous validation of the train’s integrity. With a single TGV trainset, this is pretty much given, and with a doubleheader, it is not thaat complicated. This would then mean that the distance between trains can be shortened to the actual stopping distance, taking into account the actual speeds of the trains. But so far, the only ETCS Level 3-style implementations are on secondary lines operated with one or maybe two D/EMUS. That said, getting the line to ETCS Level 2 standard would be the most cost-efficient way to increase the capacity.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Actual stopping distance plus the time it takes the train to sense that there is a problem, decide what it needs to communicate to the signal system, for that to be broadcast and the following train to interpret that. When there is freezing rain on the tracks. And the brakes on the following train aren’t quite working as well as they should. It’s somewhat more than the stopping distance.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Yeah, but in the meantime, the preceeding train has moved as well. Which means that “stopping distance” becomes a dynamic value.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Not if it’s coming to screeching halt because someone decided to drop their SUV on the tracks.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Fascinating. DO tell more. Such subtleties, such unexpected revelations!

    I promise you that Max has forgotten more about railway signalling and operations than you will ever know.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Is ETCS 3 really capable of maintaining 20 tph on a high-speed line? The ERTMS brochures say that 3-minute headways are possible on high-speed lines, but it presumably requires very delicate stopping patterns. The Shinkansen has 3-minute headways occasionally, but those always involve a local train following an express train, which is the easiest case. Once you introduce mixed stopping patterns to a line, things get more difficult.

    Clem Reply:

    Once you introduce a junction it gets really interesting: not only does the previous train need to clear it, but a new route has to be set and verified all in time for the following train to stop if something went wrong with any step of that process.

    Eric Reply:

    1. Is provincial France so poor even if you include cost of living? The difference in cost of living between the Northeast Corridor/California and the Midwest is dramatic and can make up a lot for the income difference. Similarly, France is a pretty big country by European standards, and Paris known for being expensive.

    2. Wasn’t France unusually centralized even before the revolution? Versailles etc.

    Eric Reply:

    3. What’s so bad about southern French transit? Every podunk town seems to have a recently built tram line. Are the buses bad or something?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Multiplied passenger capacity with one operator.

    Surface tram lines are chump change by comparison to new straight high speed ROW’s.

    Once you have a tram industry back up and running the costs fall. And you can buy used equipment. Think Johnstown Traction Co., which lasted until 1960 without subsidy and was able to buy its own PCC’s with WWII profits.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    1. The numbers I have are per capita income net of rent and interest. In the US, there are more statistics available, and the equivalent figure (“net earnings” in the BEA tables) levels most or all of the difference in living costs between regions.

    2. It was centralized on paper, but the state was still premodern. In Aquitaine only the nobility spoke French – the people spoke Occitan, and to some extent viewed themselves as a separate nation: during the Revolution, Toulouse tried to secede. The state only existed at the provincial level, and some of the provinces were quite large, especially Guyenne and Languedoc. The Revolution replaced the large provinces with smaller departments, reimposed the French language (and, unlike the ancien regime, made an effort to enforce it on the Occitans and Bretons), and eliminated the privileges of local notables.

    3. The tram lines are great! But there aren’t a lot of them, and the transit in the suburbs is shitty (France has highly fractional metro areas, like New England or the Bay Area, so central cities have high density and low shares of metro area populations). For example, Nice’s tramway has 90,000 weekday users, against a city population of 350,000. Sounds high, right? But the metro area has around a million people, so it isn’t so good. What would be the backbone of suburban transit, the TERs, have laughably low ridership, with the partial exception of Rhone-Alpes and PACA.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The reason I wrote about this here was largely to highlight Bernard Aubin’s comments on the controversy. I am quite familiar with the problems of the Anglophone media in covering France, and yet the issue is still comprehensible to outside observers.

    Jonathan Reply:

    In general, it’s a bad idea to rely on Anglophone media (including you, Robert) in learning about France.

    An … unsual observation, coming from the person who takes Francophone politicians and pundits as the source-of-truth about culture in Australasia. Double standard?

  10. synonymouse
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 12:50
    #10

    I figure either Alain Juppe or Marine Le Pen will be elected the next French leader and policies will inevitably change some. Transport decisions there are almost entirely political just as in California.

    It is all party line and cover story.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The main change for France is that as their Baby Boom cohort ages, they too fall prey to the idea that debt is bad because wealthier, older French will pay for something they don’t get to use. This is the central undercurrent of our lives, the Boomers are a population bubble, so when they are young and not paying for anything government is awesome and should pay for tons of things. Now they are old and getting the bills, they and the politicians they vote for conveniently forget the sacrifice of their forebears. Add in changing demographic patterns and it becomes easy to dehumanize as Millenials don’t even look like the Boomers.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The baby boomers aren’t getting it yet. The first one was eligible for Medicare in 2011. The ones born in 1950 or later aren’t eligible yet. The ones who retired early did it in 2008. Without Medicare benefits. If they went for disability instead of old age retirement they were eligible for Medicare in 2010.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Huh?

    Medicare is one program that in theory is the exception to the rule–but look back to the 1960s and 1970s and the welfare safety net and redistributive role of government was much stronger. It’s not just about transportation and infrastructure debt…education is also a fine example of the Boomer closing the door after they have gone through it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The boomers weren’t old enough to vote when Saint Ronnie made UC start charging tuition. Many of them weren’t old enough to vote for him the first time he was elected President. The ones who were didn’t vote for him.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Say what? Depending on your definition, the overwhelming majority of baby boomers were born after 1962. Since when were baby boomers not 18 in 1980? For that matter, most would’ve been of voting age when Reagan was elected governor. You’re really mixing up your dates here. 16 year old baby boomers in 1980, according to adirondacker!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The baby boom was from 1946 to 1964. The voting age is 18. The youngest of them were 16 and 17 in 1980. Very very roughly a tenth of them weren’t old enough to vote. 1 out of 10 is “many”. They didn’t vote for Tricky Dick either. 1950 or earlier to vote in 1968.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    But that’s precisely my point: after most of them of could vote in 1980, the national trajectory of the country swung to the right. In the 60s and 70s government programs were more generous and there was no mass appeal campaign to stop that.

    However, since 1980 all we have seen is demonization of government’s role and no acknowledgement that the Boomers would be nowhere as well off today but for these programs back then.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You don’t get to make the definitions. the consensus is 1946 to 1964. Birth rates support that.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    opps wrong reply, that should be to Amanda.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Stick to your New York geography.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    1964 is more properly the beginning of Generation X. Someone who graduated from high school is not of the same generation as someone who graduated from high school in 1965. Using such an expansive definition of baby boomer obscures lots of differences in such a wide ranging group, at least culturally. Its like saying that since I was born in 1979 I’m technically generation X, but that’s only really on true on paper-the culture I came of age was in the mid-late 90s. Not the mid-late 80s. In other words, Baby Boomers didn’t get Atari 2600s under the tree for Christmas. They might’ve given them to their kids though.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I would place the end of the baby boom with the exit of Eisenhower in 1960. 1947 was the big year.

    Also the war babies(WWII) different as most of them are or were first born.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    1957 was the year with most births until recently. IIRC followed by 1956 and 1958. You can only have one first born. You can have a second, third and fourth. Fifth sixth ninth.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Someone who was born in 1964 had the IBM PC introduced during their senior year of high school. Someone born in 1950 would’ve been drafted during the Tet Offensive. There are massive cultural differences between the years normally counted as “Baby Boomers.” Its way too large of an umbrella to describe them as a homogeneous group. Demographically, sure, but people who were born immediately post war and 1964 babies inhabit different cultural universes, and in terms of political and cultural analysis, its disingenuous to lump them together.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    You don’t get to make the definitions. Argue with the Census Bureau. And people who think baby boomers were born before World War II, sucked up GI Bill benefits, subsidized mortgages and have been collecting Social Security for a decade. They haven’t.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    But the Census Bureau doesn’t use their rather expansive definition to make bullshit political arguments.

    joe Reply:

    While I cringe at 1965 being called Gen X, it isn’t, by 1980 most of what are called boomers were old enough to to vote against Ronnie Ray-Gun or hold pretty strong opinions.

    The IBM PC definition doesn’t really hold water. The watershed change for computing was the end of punch cards. A CRT screen, file system, line editor and multi-user OS were affordable and around in the late 1960s and that was a watershed change over the punchcard system. Look at any non-CS discipline like ecology and the roots of computer modeling are found 1968-72. Also CP/M systems and Commodore PET predate the expensive IBM corporate computer.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    I can’t read addled minds. Or even unaddled minds. Neither can anyone else besides Synomouse who is privy to all the conspiracies infesting California.
    You don’t get to make the definitions.

    datacruncher Reply:

    In the 1980 presidential election, exit polls found voters under the age of 30 split evenly between Reagan (43% of under 30) and Carter (44% of under 30). Many Boomers who voted that year cast ballots for Reagan.
    http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/national-exit-polls.html
    http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/elections/how_groups_voted/voted_80.html

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    43% for Reagan implies that 57% didn’t vote for him.
    49% for Dubya in 2000 implies that 51% didn’t vote for him.

    datacruncher Reply:

    44% for Carter implies that 56% did not vote for the Democrat.

    joe Reply:

    What about Representative Anderson from Rockford IL, I lived there at the time he ran as independent in 1980 and I voted for him. You can’t discuss 1980 without mentioning Anderson’s impact on the election.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes, just like they didn’t vote for the Democrat they didn’t vote for the Republican either. Both of them had lukewarm support.

    datacruncher Reply:

    I liked Anderson in 1980 too. But his support slowly melted away in 1980 as the election season ran on. He still was one of the strongest independent/third party candidates of probably the last 50 years or more, probably second only to Perot’s 1992 showing.

  11. Elizabeth Alexis
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 13:09
    #11

    The French people I’ve spoken to have argued against an expansion of the TGV system – but not as an anti-rail issue. The workhorses of transit – regional trains – have been heavily underinvested in as capital has gone to new TGV lines. Even the many of the TGV trains are really getting on in years – we were on a train last year that seemed to be held together with duct tape.

    Compared to Switzerland or Germany, the French system has always been less of a network and more of an “all roads lead to Paris” approach.

    Given that investment in shiny new objects has almost without exception led to underinvestments in less glamorous but equally important transit improvements/ service, anyone arguing for doing so had better secure sources of funding for local/ regional transit or be very clear that they are making a choice.

    Joe Reply:

    Infrastructure and maintenance investments are not at odds with expanding public systems. There’s ample money. We just have a lopsided capitalistic system focused on consolidating wealth at the expense of public good.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You are going to take this “ample money” from Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison and Bill Gates et al?

    synonymouse Reply:

    And if you do they are going to insist on taking over the decision making directly. Ergo no red ink bleeding Palmdalebahn.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They aren’t keeping it.

    http://www.gatesfoundation.org/

    Neither is Warren Buffet. He’s said publicly, more than once that he gave his kids a good home, a good education and nice house when they got married. The rest of it is going to be given away. He’s also said publicly, more than once, that he is undertaxed.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Gates isn’t giving that money away. His foundation is a giant tax shelter to promote new business lines that he can then invest in and continue making money. And that’s before we get into that foundation’s leading role in destroying the American education system.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Such admirable cynicism, about a so-called charitable set-up fronting for the (velvet gloved, but you see right through it! Iron Fist of an Arch Capitalist, Robert!

    My little head is a-spinning.

    Mister Gates’ Big Bad Charity Racket is such a contrast to the California High Speed Rail Authority — openly doing business as a fully-owned subsidiary of a cash laundering private corporation — which decides, announces, defends and erects giant concrete members only the highest of public interests.

    It’s quite the facility you have to identify the twelve honest and lawful men in the land of mist and malaria.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Richard, it’s not cynicism. Every foundation is a big tax shelter. Ask a pro athlete why they always form one hours after signing a big contract.

    Jerry Reply:

    You take it from, et. al.
    The Walton children have more than Buffett and Gates combined.
    And remember, corporations are people too.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Infrastructure and maintenance investments are not at odds with expanding public systems.

    Infrastructure “investments” that cost the public two to ten times the going rate are most assuredly at odds with any and all public interests.

    $20 or $40 billion excess devoured and magicked away by CHSRA contractors is $20 to $40 billion that could have gone to regional transit, to schools, to the UC system, to healthcare capital projects, to healthcare provision, to the state or regional parks, to water and sewer programs, to building energy efficiency programs (possibly the highest bang for the buck), or to a totally bitching missile defense system for Gilroy City Hall.

    It is in reality a close to zero sum game. The curious thing is listening to dipshit “lefties” argue that rapacious rent-seeking private engineering and concrete contractors should have first and biggest dibs on all the public pies.

    Joe Reply:

    Blah blah blah. Contractors rip us off so stop building public systems until the world changes and the elves come back to middle Earth. Plus schools, sewers and squirrels.

    Until magic returns,, You could start paying social security taxes on all you income and also pay the same tax rate on investment income as labors pay on wages earned.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Yes, these are very good proposals. If I remember correctly, the US federal government would get an extra $200 billion a year from removing the FICA tax cap.

    Now go divide these $200 billion between the various things the government spends money on: Social Security, health care, universities, K-12 education, means-tested welfare, infrastructure, defective fighter jets, etc.

    Jerry Reply:

    Come on now.
    The extra $200 billion would go only to the Social Security fund. Which the federal government would borrow from and put in an IOU. Wow. Talk about two sets of books.
    The other suggestion Joe had was to simply have the same tax rate on investment income as on wages. Ok. Ok. Kick in the same rate after $300,000. Remember Steve Jobs. His salary was only $1 a year. No income tax on that. But after $300,000 in capital gains, maybe, just maybe, kick in a higher tax rate. Say a rate that Buffett’s secretary pays on her wages.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m not talking about the Social Security fund, but about benefit levels. They’re pitifully low, and reducing them even further is a common point of bipartisan grand bargains to reduce the deficits. In the event the US decides to eliminate the FICA cap, it should devote a substantial proportion of the extra revenue to increasing retirement benefits and bolstering the fund to prevent future cuts or retirement age raising.

    Joe Reply:

    I’d use the income to increase SS payments. The added income would be spent and stimulate the economy as well as improve quality of life. There’s no reason to cap it except to create a regressive tax policy.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    1. CHSRA costs are outrageously and unjustifiably high by all peer standards.
    2. ???
    3. I am personally obliged to repair the manifest iniquities of the US federal tax code.

    GilroyLogic™!

    Joe Reply:

    …to healthcare capital projects, to healthcare provision….

    1. CHSRA costs are outrageously and unjustifiably high by all peer standards.

    US medical costs are outrageously high and we have ample infrastructure but that doesn’t matter because it’s not about money – your feelings were hurt when the bad men ignored your ideas.

    synonymouse Reply:

    And the alternative is to be a PB running dog?

    Max Wyss Reply:

    The authority over the regional trains (aka TER) is with the Régions, and no longer with the federal government. So, it is in the hands of the Régions to come up with financing. This makes things depend a lot on the actual Région administration, and in an era where “lowering taxes” is “cool”, particularly by right-wing/nationalistic movements, this may affect any infrastructure projects.

    Infrastructure financing is always a mix of federal money, RFF (the infrastructure manager), money from the Région, money from the Département, and even from the towns; in some cases, there is also money from the EU involved). The lead is normally with the Région. For maintenance, it is the RFF which comes up with the financing, being fed by the access charges (in automobile-speak, the tolls). However, they are rather short on resources; the official reason given for the half year delay of the reopening of the Avignon-Carpentras line is that their resources are all used up for checking and maintaining switches, as a consequence of accident in Brétigny-sur-Orge…

    With rolling stock, it is the SNCF calling a given number of units from their umbrella contract with the manufacturer, on behalf of the Région. These trains do get a specific livery, and will operate only for services ordered by that given Région. Cross-border services are either run as joint operation of the involved Régions, or done “on behalf” of the other one by one. That’s how it comes that in Avignon, you can see trains from the PACA (where Avignon is located), but also from the Languedoc-Roussillon (towards Nîmes and beyond), and from the Rhône-Alpes (Lyon – Marseille, including shorter runs on that line).

    All that said, things have been changing over the last few years. However, the Ile-de-France (the greater, greater Paris area) is the most populated area in France, and has the busiest train network of the country).

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The irony of your comment is that this current arrangment in France is pretty close to Brown’s vision for realignment between state and local authorities for both transportation and non-transportation programs in California.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    It works relatively well, if the involved parties have their means of financing (or have their guaranteed share of the tax money pot).

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I generally support realignment myself, but California is not quite like France in that there is more demographic and socioeconomic segregation.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I think you underestimate France’s level of segregation. It has very high levels of geographic inequality; moreover, within metro regions, poor people usually live in suburban housing projects, segregated from where the middle class goes. Seine-Saint-Denis is infamously in a near-tie with some rural department for poorest in France, even though it’s located in the richest region.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There still are some mighty poor neighborhoods in New York City. Give it time. The hipsters will push them out to the suburbs.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I am not underestimating France, but they don’t have Minority-majority population. Come visit one of these days and see for yourself….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I’m in France as we speak; my parents live here. Another thing you underestimate is France’s ethnic diversity. Besides the fact that it took until a few decades ago for France to complete its forced assimilation of the Occitans, Bretons, Alsatians, and Corsicans, there’s a large population of first-, second-, and even third-generation immigrants from former French colonies.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    France never had colonies! Those places on the other side of the Mediterranean were part of France!
    Even though they get treated like a colony. Just like the ones in the Caribbean are still part of France.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    … and (at least in Southern France), there is quite a number of people with spanish roots.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Your search terms are SNCF and “machine infernale”

    American tourists fresh off their transatlantic planes just love the zoomy trains from CDG. The value of the lopsided grands projets trophy projects (LGV and others) to the country as a whole and its residents as a whole is more debatable. But, look Martha, by golly goshers it’s shiny!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The all roads to Paris model is a feature, though, not a bug.

    It’s what happens when you take a very unitary country like France and use the relatively confederal arrangement of the EU to your advantage. The modern day Bonapartists want all international flights in Europe to land at Charles De Gaulle and from there, connect not just all French roads to Paris and the airport…but ALL EUROPEAN roads to Paris.

    The downsides are real, no doubt, but as I was telling Max Wyss…Jerry Brown is an adherent of the approach above if you know anything about realignment.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    One fifth of the people in France live in metro Paris. Even if trips were evenly spread around everywhere it would seem like all roads lead to Paris. It’s the third biggest metro area in the EU which will make it seem like all roads not to Berlin or London lead to Paris. Especially the ones that connect London to Paris.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    One fifth of the people in Switzerland live in metro Zurich.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    In nice round all of Switzerland has 66% of the population of metro Paris. Or Paris has 50 % more population than Switzerland. Lyon’s metro area is bigger than metro Zurich. Wikipedia is unclear on how much of Geneva’s equivalent of a CSA live in France. It’s smaller than metro than metro Marseille or Toulouse. Slightly bigger than Lille and Bordeaux.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So? Doesn’t change the fact that Switzerland has a very high share of the population living in the largest metro area, too, and yet its transportation network is polycentric.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They are polycentric has more to do with that than whether or not all roads lead to Paris… Except for the Germans passing through on their way to Paris.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Germans do not pass through Switzerland to get to Paris, unless perhaps they live in a suburb of Basel. Come on.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Recall that in UpstateNewYorkGeography™ that Redwood City lies between Fremont and San José.

    But more to the point, why are you trying to argue with a robot whose sole directive is to click on the “Submit Comment” button?

    Ted Judah Reply:

    It’s a function of political structure. Germany and Switzerland are far less unitary in political structure.

    Eric Reply:

    Funny that Richard calls someone else a robot…

    Eric Reply:

    As far as I can tell, the inhabited parts of Switzerland are all more or less in a straight line. And the country is small, so legacy tracks can provide sufficiently fast travel anywhere they exist. France doesn’t have those advantages.

    What non-Paris-centric routes does France even need? Toulouse-Marseille obviously, but I expect the TGV to go there eventually. Perhaps a bypass of Paris from the south would be nice, but Lyon-Nantes does not strike me as the world’s most compelling travel pair.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The busiest intercity passenger lines in Switzerland form a Y, with vertices at Zurich, Basel, and Bern.

    In France, the only HSR line that avoids Paris that might be useful is Bordeaux-Toulouse-Marseille (and were France federal, those three cities would be larger, making it easier for an HSR line to pencil out), but more to the point, there’s much more pressing need for good regional rail in certain provincial regions. In the southwest, this means expanding TER networks to give small and midsize cities better access to Bordeaux and Toulouse. Limoges, a historically Occitan-speaking city, could use a medium-speed link to Bordeaux; currently, the trains between the two cities take nearly 3 hours (a straight-line distance of 180 km) and have a 3-hour midday service gap.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Here’s Swiss road traffic (passenger traffic shown in the first section; daily all-vehicle counts further down): http://www.uvek.admin.ch/infrastrukturstrategie/02570/02597/02598/
    Here’s Swiss passenger rail traffic: http://www.uvek.admin.ch/infrastrukturstrategie/02570/02597/02599/
    You’re welcome. And sorry to bring facts to the table, “Eric”. I’m sure you can and will make up for that.

    Eric Reply:

    Right, Alon, I forgot about Basel. Didn’t think to look on that side of the mountains.

    Before it was cancelled, Swissmetro was supposed to go in a straight line with a spur from Zurich to Basel, i.e. Zurich-centric.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    @Alon: There is also the Mulhouse – Lyon line which is tangential (but has some additional potential for southern Germany/central and northern Switzerland to south of France).

    @Eric: The main core network in Switzerland is, as it has been said the triangle formed by Winterthur, Basel and Bern (whereas Winterthur-Zürich is to a big extent S-Bahn), and then there is the Léman (Genève – Lausanne artery.

    @Eric: Swissmetro is a long time precursor of Hyperloop; the only difference, it is not coming as a brain fart from a billionnaire, and some more serious calculations were made (with the result that it would be way too expensive…).

  12. Joseph E
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 15:26
    #12

    Re: Poitiers-Limoges, http://www.lgvpoitierslimoges.com/:
    *Journey time from Paris to Limoges of 2hr 3min including 11 minute stop in Poiters.
    *35 Minutes Poitiers to Limoges

    Current trains from Limoges to Paris take about 3 hr 40 min direct, about the same as driving on the motorway (assuming no traffic in Paris!).
    Current Paris-Poitiers LGV trains take 1:37 scheduled, so 2:03 should be possible when tracks to Poiters from Tours are upgraded

    The promotional website claims there are “2.5 million inhabitants” in the region served by this line, including the provinces around Poitiers and Limoges, and also farther south-east from Limoges in Brive and Cahors. This may be a stretch, but at least some of this extended area would now have access in Paris in 3 hours, 1 hour less than previous; i.e. significantly faster than driving.

    1.8 billion seems a expensive for this line, but it is less than 18 million euros per kilometer in hilly terrain.

    Does anyone have the projected ridership for this line? If it reaches 10,000 per day in 2030, then it would take 10 euros per trip for 30 years to equal the cost of investment, without interest. Not great, but better than many infrastructure projects in the USA.

    Joseph E Reply:

    Hmm… there are only 784 thousand people in the departments of Haute-Vienne, Lot and Corrèze‎, perhaps 10,000 riders is over-optimistic.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It’s not really correct to say the line would serve 2.5 million people, because people in Poitou don’t care about a branch line to Limoges. The Poitier-Limoges distance is short enough that people going between the two cities will almost always drive even if there’s an LGV, so this is all about Paris-Limoges.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Boes anyone have the projected ridership for this line?

    Per http://www.enquetepublique-lgvpoitierslimoges.fr/dossier_enquete/abcd/pieceC1.pdf (I haven’t dug further)

    Pour le scénario de base des prévisions de trafic, il est retenu l’hypothèse d’un maintien du niveau des dessertes assurées sur l’axe Paris-Orléans-Limoges-Toulouse tel qu’il existe en ituation de référence 2020, c’est-à-dire 11 services par sens et par jour.

    Ce scénario prévoit 3,27 millions de voyageurs utilisant le mode ferroviaire en 2020 dont 2,14 millions emprunteront la LGV Poitiers-Limoges. 77,5 % sont des anciens usagers des lignes existantes, et 7,6 % issus de l’induction.

    That’s under 1000 new (which is all that counts!) rail mode trips per day. “Underwhelming” is one word for that.
    Under higher service assumptions they get all the way up to about 1300 per day.

    Joseph E Reply:

    Thanks!
    So, less than 6000 riders per day on the new line, mostly current riders.
    Still doesn’t make BART to SJ look good.

  13. les
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 16:02
    #13

    Interesting that the Poitiers-Limoges’s line’s expected cost for 80 miles is 2.2 billion USD vs Fresno-Bakersfield 88 miles 2.2 billion. I don’t see where either line has major engineering feats to overcome. Given the high bids from European companies on the initial 28 mile segment it appears they were trying to pull one over on CHSR.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Fresno—Bakersfield is no systems (electrification, signalling, etc) and no ties in with anything. Do the costs you’re quoting even include tracks?

    LGV Poitiers—Limoges does include everything actually required to run trains at up to 320kmh, a service plan to actually provide service, two junctions tying into the existing in-service classic lines (for that which “providing service” business), no stations (like Fresno—Bakersfield), and doesn’t transfer large sections of the construction budget onto other parties (like CHSRA does with Fresno realignment of Hwy 99 and Caltrans’ budget.) It’s mostly single-tracked, because that’s all the service requires.

    If you ever get any idea that you’re not getting reamed raw by CHSRA=PBQD costs, you’ll find you’re reading revisionist press releases and ignoring all the fine print.

    Not to say http://http://www.lgvpoitierslimoges.com is anything like a great project, but at least it isn’t a completely out-of-control scam solely for and under the direct control of private contractors.

    les Reply:

    Link http://http://www.lgvpoitierslimoges.com doesn’t work for me.
    Cost are close enough to realize that there isn’t a major scam going on like some try to make us believe. I can’t image 80 miles of track costing billions of dollars. And the fact that the Europeans way overbid the initial segment tells me CHSR hasn’t got a bad deal thus far.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Mmmmm …. kool aid.

    les Reply:

    yes, kool aid is great isn’t. i suppose you wanted to breakdown the cost of tp for the port-a-pots too.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Delete the duplicate http.

    Joe Reply:

    This translated link gives some cost per Km construction costs.
    US CA per km would be up there with Italy.

    http://www.eleconomista.es/empresas-finanzas/noticias/5818031/05/14/Espana-es-el-pais-con-menor-coste-por-kilometro-construido-en-alta-velocidad.html#.Kku8x01W3WuKBxW
    “Spain is the country’s high-speed rail with smaller outlay per kilometer built. The cost AVE lines that have been installed on the network so far ranges from nearly 6 million euros per kilometer which involved the implementation of the Madrid-Sevilla (entered service in 1992) to 18.56 million euros of linking Madrid-Valladolid, according to data provided by ADIF.

    The figure contrasts with other high-speed projects that have been developed in the world and that, except for the Atlantic TGV in France (in operation for decades), far exceed the 20 million per kilometer. Thus, the ICE (German AVE) connecting Frankfurt to Cologne involved an expenditure of 33 million per kilometer and construction of the Italian AVE has exceeded 44 million.”

    les Reply:

    1992 is too far back to consider, ie, too much inflation since then.
    I may need my math checked but I’m getting under 14 mill euro/kilo for CHSR’s first 80 miles which is pretty damn good. This leaves ample room to add tracks, electric components and tp for construction site porta pottys.

    joe Reply:

    CA HSR Phase I operational will come in at 50M per Km in 2014 dollars. CV system will come in under 50M/Km since it hasn’t tunnels.

    les Reply:

    of course, but neither does Poitiers-Limoges

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Interstate grade highway costs 25 million a lane-mile. 80 miles at 25 million a mile is 2 billion dollars.

    Michael Reply:

    If the cost is actually lane-miles, you get an 80-mile long, one lane interstate for $2b. Useable interstates would cost at least 4x that.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    yep. One lane. The usual number bandied about is an average of 25 million dollars a lane mile. Just the asphalt alone can cost millions. The Deseret News in Salt Lake City totaled up the costs for widening I-15. They came up with 27 million a lane mile. In nice flat, lightly populated suburban Salt Lake City. Mostly in right of way the state bought when it was originally built. YMMV when it’s through more urban areas.

  14. Donk
    Dec 28th, 2014 at 23:20
    #14

    “Thankfully, there are those in France who are fighting back:

    Some of these conclusions are disputed by the government, by the state railway company, the SNCF, and by trade unions.”

    Surprise, surprise. The unions and the company that runs the HSR system are fighting back and want to get government money to build more rail infrastructure. Sounds familiar. If you want to try to lose an argument, all you have to do is have the unions speak on your behalf.

    les Reply:

    same ole, same ol. i suppose the unions are responsible for white dwarfs too.

  15. les
    Dec 29th, 2014 at 09:30
    #15

    My good buddy Richard got me wondering what the exact cost of CP-5 will be.
    CHSR is void of any estimates from what is available on their site.
    For ballet-less track I found 1.32euro million/k for work done in China to be the average.
    Accounting for cheap labor and etc, maybe 2.5m for equivalent US work? Add another 2m for other considerations which I’m sure some incited individual will come up with. This would still put CHSR under 18m which is still very low compared to most recent European work. The fact is CHSR has come in lower on both bids from internal and external prognosticators thus far.

    http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2014/07/04/000333037_20140704083655/Rendered/PDF/892000BRI0Box3000china0transport09.pdf

    Eric M Reply:

    If I remember correctly, the majority of the CAHSR track will be ballasted, unfortunately (personal preference). The only places slab track will be used is on viaducts. But being the installation of track has not been bid on, that could change and slab track could be used the whole way.

    Elizabeth Alexis Reply:

    don’t forget rail bed, electrification, signaling, sound walls and stations – none of which are included in cp 1-4

    les Reply:

    Poitiers—Limoges both already have stations. I buffered 5 m for other stuff already.

    Clem Reply:

    Electrification and signaling costs close to $1 billion for 50 miles of Caltrain. Add rail bed and sound walls, and the cost will easily hit $30 million per route mile. “Other stuff” indeed.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yet Amtrak is re-electrifying and re-signalling 100 track miles in New Jersey for less than a half billion. It includes stuff outside of that like replacing all the switches west of Penn Station, upgrading them from 15MPH to 30MPH. Upgrading the substations along the line too.

    Joey Reply:

    1) Electrifying 24 miles of quad track shouldn’t cost the same as 50 miles of dual track. The costs don’t scale that way

    2) Are you implying that Amtrak is marginally more competent than CalTrain? I’ll believe it but it’s not saying much.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    50 miles of dual track is 100 miles of track. 24 miles of quad track is 96 miles.
    Pesky fourth grade teacher, teaching me how to mulitply multi digit numbers.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes, but the cost of electrification doesn’t really scale linearly with the number of tracks. You don’t need twice as many substations for 4 tracks compared to 2. You need beefier substations but they don’t cost twice as much. You also don’t need twice as many poles – they have to be stronger to support the headspans but they won’t cost twice as much. Feeder wires will carry more current but you don’t need twice as many. The actual overhead wires themselves of course you do need twice as many of but they’re not the only cost. Same goes for signaling.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Amtrak is spending one third the money for twice as much track. Per track mile it’s costing one sixth as much. And throwing in some converter upgrades. California doesn’t need converter stations. Or a 25Hz high voltage system over the tracks.

    Joey Reply:

    Per route-mile it costs less but not half as much. I don’t doubt that Amtrak is spending money more efficiently than CalTrain but not as much as you think. Like I said cost per track-mile isn’t necessarily a useful measure. Cost per route-mile isn’t either – the real answer is somewhere between the two.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Cakifornia is special. It’s not three times as special as New Jersey.

    Joey Reply:

    This has nothing to do with California. This has to do with the fact that electrification cost does not scale linearly with the number of tracks. I’ve said it three times.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    No it doesn’t but the same amount of track miles isn’t going to cost three times as much in California. California isn’t that special.

    les Reply:

    CALTRAN’s includes a 100 mil for real estate and 100 mil for contigency. NEC might not include these.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Amtrak doesn’t budget for contingency?
    100 million for real estate makes it 1.4 billion instead of 1.5 billion. Still real close to 3 times as much.

    les Reply:

    i’m not sure what the amtrak quote included. but when it’s only .5b i can’t imagine it includes much. I wish they would have supplied a link. for Caltran: http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Caltrain+Modernization+Program/Presentations/Cost+Schedule+Update+Nov2014.pdf

    les Reply:

    note total is .958B. exclude .2 for land and contigency and get .7
    1.4 includes stock.

    les Reply:

    i found it and nope it does not include contingency or real estate in breakdown
    http://www.nhhsrail.com/stay_informed/faqs.aspx

    les Reply:

    Tying into exiting stations like Poitiers and Limogesis is a lot easier and cheaper then Bakersfield and Fresno. 90% of the tracks there are for passenger rail, opposite here. And the network of tracks is extensive there. Will be a lot more demolition and new configuring going on here.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Tying into existing rail systems, especially those with traffic, is in fact quite expensive. (EXTREMELY expensive if America’s Finest Transportation Professionals are involved in any way.)

    Retrofitting existing stations (platform lengthening, platform height retrofitting, new or widended pedestrian overpasses and underpasses) with active tracks is in fact quite expensive. (INSANELY OUT OF CONTROL expensive if America’s Finest Transportation Professionals are involved in any way.)

    Demolition on brownfield sites is cheap. Pretty much entire US construction industry is set up for it.

    Digging foundations, bending rebar, pouring concrete, erecting structural steel, all the trades required to erect modest sized commercial buildings, even constructing road overpasses and road underpasses is pretty cheap: again, there are thousands of US firms that specialize in exactly that.

    Look no further than the scores of very large-scale commercial structures which are being erected within a block of the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco, and being erected on time, to non-insane budgets, and to budget. Compare then on every count to the catastrophic “public” structure in their midst.

    On the other hand, railway stations transformed into battleship-scale (literally!) looming high aerial monsters due to massive aerial “concourse levels” demanded by America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals; “passenger facilities” transformed into insane warrens of bridges, tunnels, level changes, landside/airside separation by America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals; “passenger access routes” that are also insane warrnes of bridges, tunnels and level changes, completely cut off from the surrounding city by virtue of being erected above at-grade freight rail tracks that nobody ever even considered renovating; actively and enthusiastically bending over and grasping your ankles whenever the freight railroads request anything at all; … — THIS is a recipe for billions of dollars of excess cost, waste and fraud.

    You really have no idea of how any of this works outside the US or how it is working inside the US transit-industrial complex.

    What is necessary to build railways stations for passengers in places like Fresno or Bakersfield (or San José or Sacramento or Modesto or somewhat even in San Francisco), is comparatively cheap, simple, easy, and the sort of thing that scores of open market construction firms can do in their sleep with one hand tied behind their backs.

    What is being done by America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals is diametrically and radically different from all of that.

    les Reply:

    OK, Mr Parson’s thanks for your kool aid. Back to my point. From Poitiers end point the construction will actually start at Saint Benoit which is south of the city and Limoges connection is east of the city. Thus the line will avoid any significan urban conflict. So spare me your higher than mighty BS! Building in a dairy field is always cheaper than an urban setting.

    les Reply:

    property values alone are enough to bankrupt a contractor.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The contractor doesn’t buy the ROW. They build stuff on the land the railroad owns.

    les Reply:

    So what, doesn’t impact the point that when comparing building connections in a city vs rural, the cost is always going to be greater in a urban environment that has no re-usable existing passenger rail infra-structure vs attaching to a rural connection next to a dairy field. Existing ROW or not. And it doesn’t matter who the burden falls on, ie, contractor,railroad co, corporate investors or government.

    “in all, from Paris to Courtalain, the new TGV line follows existing rights of way for nearly 60 percent of its length (Chambron, 1986: 665). Savings that might have been expected from the land acquisition perspective, however, were not to be had. Since the new line follows existing infrastructure for a good portion of its length, much money had to be spent on over/underpasses for highway interchanges, stations, and conventional tracks.

    http://www.uctc.net/papers/100.pdf

    les Reply:

    it’s impossible to get an exact comp hence initial generalized statement. But I think it great if CHSR could achieve a lower than expected bid for CP-4 also. If extra funds from CP1-4 can cover CP5, then maybe they’ll have an unexpected extra billion to start an additional segment right away.

  16. Reedman
    Dec 29th, 2014 at 10:08
    #16

    A railroad owned by the State of California you probably didn’t know about:

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Diminutive-Swanton-Pacific-railway-loaded-with-5982373.php

  17. Keith Saggers
    Dec 29th, 2014 at 12:00
    #17
  18. synonymouse
    Dec 29th, 2014 at 13:30
    #18

    http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/State-s-ballot-initiative-process-remade-and-5982538.php

    No doubt a scam to kill off dissenting initiatives. Both Demos and Repubs are controlled by developers.

    Trust no one.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    This idea has been floating around for years. Good government types like it, but I don’t think it has any real relevance. The bigger story is that because turnout in the November 2014 election was so low, it’s going to be much easier to qualify initiatives for the 2016 and 2018 ballots.

    Mattie F. Reply:

    These all seem like good, common-sense reforms to me. I wonder if the 30-day extension on signature gathering might enable for the first time a proposition to reach the ballot without paid signature gatherers (which has not happened since the modern Initiative Era began in the 70s).

    I love the Swiss practice of the legislature proposing alternatives to most initiatives, with a simple-majority vote. (They could do that now in CA, but it would require a 2/3rds vote), and would like to see that adopted.

    synonymouse Reply:

    We’ll see what develops with this business-sponsored voter initiative:

    http://newsdaily.com/2014/12/effort-to-kill-californias-ban-on-plastic-grocery-bags-moves-forward/

    Max Wyss Reply:

    For initiatives to modify the Swiss constitution, the majority of the votes AND the majority of the “States” (cantons) is needed. Now, as Switzerland has a considerable number of smaller rural cantons, there are barely any chances that something in favor of urban areas may pass; not because it would not get enough votes, but because it won’t get enough state votes.

    Referendums, decisions made by the legislation needing approval by the voters (either mandatory by its nature, or because enough signatures could be gathered for forcing the vote) need the majority of votes only.

    So much for basic Swiss way of initiatives etc.

    Ah, yeah, it is (AFAIK) not allowed to pay for signatures, but it is tolerated to pay the signature gatherer person something for having gathered a signature.

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