"In China we will have a high-speed rail debt crisis"
Even capitalists oppose high-speed rail. An editorial from those radicals at investors.com:
Derail High-Speed Spending
President Obama won't put high-speed rail on the block to ease the debt crisis. He insists we need to keep up with China. But its rail has become a $300 billion boondoggle.
Yes, that's billion with a b. China's Railway Ministry continues to lose money and is now an eye-popping $267 billion in the hole.
With its grandiose bullet trains, which largely run empty, Beijing has created a hidden debt bomb threatening its banking system. Almost all the funds to build the communist state's high-speed lines have been borrowed from Chinese banks.
"In China, we will have a debt crisis---a high-speed rail debt crisis," Zhao Jian, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, recently told the Washington Post.
He added: "I think it is more serious than your subprime mortgage crisis. You can always leave a house or use it. The rail system is there. It's a burden. You must operate the rail system, and when you operate it, the cost is very high."
This is the system Obama praises and wants America to model. In his infinite wisdom, he has called for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail.
He intends to build lines across the country so that one day 80% of Americans will have access to high-speed trains---assuming they'll want to ride them (instead of flying, which is faster and often cheaper). Even China's peasants don't want to ride theirs. Ridership is so low, the ministry recently had to slash ticket prices to attract passengers.
The lack of use should come as no surprise. High-speed rail is a money loser everywhere in the world it's been tried.
Beijing sped building of its high-speed network as part of its stimulus spending in response to the global financial crisis. Obama did the same, shoveling billions to states willing to build their own multibillion boondoggles. Several governors, including those in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida, wisely turned down the federal rail money.
California, on the other hand, jumped at the chance to squander scarce taxpayer dollars on a pie-in-the-sky plan to build a bullet line between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The project's already plagued by engineering and cost woes.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority plans to bring the rail through the Mohave Desert's steep Tehachapi Pass, where trucks crawl at 35 mph.
Tunneling under the mountain is the only option. But a train entering a small tunnel in the Tehachapi Mountains at 180 mph---as California's rail ministry has depicted in a laughable video rendering---would be like slamming into a wall. Compressed air isn't forgiving.
To overcome the piston-effect pressure changes, the tunnel would have to be built with cavernous proportions. And there'd have to be two of them, one in each direction, both running some 15 miles long.
The Chunnel connecting London and Paris cost roughly $15 billion, and that was back in the '80s, so figure that amount and then some for California's tunneling project alone. And there are no guarantees it would work. In the end, Chunnel engineers never fully solved the drag problem and had to reduce train speeds.
China hasn't had to deal with anything like the Tehachapi Pass. Yet each segment of its high-speed rail system has been far costlier to build than first figured. California---and U.S.---taxpayers would be eating similar cost overruns, perhaps for decades.
So who could possibly benefit from such a boondoggle? Unions, along with the politicians they vote for---in this case Obama and California Democrats, who'll be able to trade construction jobs and other union sop for votes.
Poor construction and safety problems have forced Beijing to reduce top train speeds from 218 mph to 186 mph. It's also slowing construction of new lines until ridership catches up.
Meanwhile, it's full steam ahead for the Obama Express to Debtville. Obama insists his precious infrastructure projects are off-limits in budget-cutting talks.
Republicans should derail his high-speed spending, starting with the $8 billion down payment he made for such rail projects in the new budget.
Thanks to High-Speed Rail Talk for the link.
Labels: High-Speed Rail