LA Times Uncovers Secret HSR Story

LA Times Uncovers Secret HSR Story

07/09/12 Filed in:

TRANSDEF was the source for the story that ran in the LA Times today on the rejection of an offer two years ago by the French National Railways, SNCF, to build the system between LA and San Francisco. The California High-Speed Rail Authority turned them down flat, but kept the offer secret.

Had the HSRA been operating in the public interest, it would now be under contract with an international HSR operator selected through an open bidding process, and be proceeding towards a fully funded LA-SF buildout (which, incidentally, would probably not have been challenged by the current litigants). Instead, if the project proceeds as planned, Californians will end up with a $6 billion track that can’t be used for HSR, and have no prospects of ever receiving a statewide system.

LA Times
High-speed rail officials rebuffed proposal from French railway

Here is the letter I sent the LA Times, in response to today’s article:

To the LA Times:

Your otherwise excellent story “High-speed rail officials rebuffed proposal from French railway” was far too kind to California High-Speed Rail Authority officials. At the time of its proposal, SNCF had the investment backing to actually build the LA-SF line, in a deal that sheltered the State from the risk of subsidizing an unprofitable project.

The Authority’s 2012 Business Plan covered up this offer, instead insisting that no private capital would be willing to invest until the first high-speed line showed a profit. The $6 billion Central Valley project approved last week by the Legislature thus exposes the State to unlimited operating losses. Worse yet, before that line can be completed, it will need an additional $27 billion from the federal government–quite unlikely in today’s political climate.

I’d sure like to understand the thinking behind the rejection of the French offer.

It’s unfortunate the story didn’t run earlier. It would have informed the Legislature’s debate.


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