Most readers of this blog (all three of you!) probably know by now that the California State Senate approved the high speed rail (HSR) plan touted by Governor Jerry Brown by a one vote margin. Barring the results of pending environmental lawsuits against the California HSR project, this vote portends possible construction of a new HSR line from "nowhere to nowhere" in California's San Joaquin Valley.
Earlier today (Monday, July 9, 2012), the Los Angeles Times published a major story outlining how the French National Railroads (SNCF) had made a $38 billion proposal to the State of California to build and operate a HSR network, funded almost exclusively by private investors. Quoting the Los Angeles Times article. See http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-rail-advice-20120709,0,4539140.story:
As state officials accelerated their effort to design a high-speed rail system in 2010, they were approached by the renowned French national railway with a suggestion: The project could use the help of an experienced bullet train operator.
Until the end of last year, SNCF, the developer of one of the world's most successful high-speed rail systems, proposed that the state use competitive bidding to partner with it or another foreign operator rather than rely on construction engineers to design a sophisticated network for 200-mph trains.
The approach, the French company said, would help the California High-Speed Rail Authority identify a profitable route, hold down building costs, develop realistic ridership forecasts and attract private investors — a requirement of a $9-billion bond measure approved by voters in 2008...
As someone who voted for Jerry Brown for Governor of California in 2010, I must say I am absolutely appalled how Mr. Brown has accepted HSR corruption and apparently doesn't care if HSR actually will work.
Rather than give SNCF and other experienced HSR operators a fair chance to present their best proposals, California HSR has been hijacked by various special interests behind the current HSR proposal, as well as some of Jerry Brown's land owning cronies…for example, those who own thousands of acres of otherwise useless desert land around Lancaster-Palmdale...
One of the excuses used by promoters of the current corrupt HSR plan for routing the line via the Antelope Valley rather than directly Santa Clarita-LA is that the Chandler family--who used to own the LA Times and still owns the Tejon Ranch, don't want a HSR line going through their property...never mind that they could be bought out for $500-$700 million for the ENTIRE 250k acres, e.g., about 1/10th the extra cost for the diversion via Lancaster/Palmdale...logic has nothing to do with it; full blown corruption and cronyism apparently does.
I am also appalled by the failure of the LA Times editors to run the SNCF story until today--THREE DAYS after the State Senate vote. Perhaps it may have swayed one or two to vote the other way, like Senator Yee from S.F., who voiced major doubts about the corrupt HSR plan? This is altogether even stranger because the SNCF proposal was well-known by California rail advocates two years ago. In fact, the SNCF sponsored a conference on HSR in Fall 2010 at UC Berkeley, where they spelled out their ideas and obtained the views of other transportation experts.
Also, what goodies did Brown promise to the two Senators who changed their votes in his favor at the last minute?
What's next? Is there any financial support from Central Valley farmers, and other business interests, to qualify a ballot measure in 2014 to kill this turkey dead allowing REAL, experienced HSR professionals to have a fair chance to submit HSR rail proposals that will actually work, taking it away from the political hacks and cronies currently playing "trains" while setting back the cause of legitimate HSR by 20 years or more?