Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Conductor Wears Black

Don't act surprised if he tells you where you're going
On this train, the conductor wears black

-- Rank and File, "The Conductor Wore Black"

The conductor might wear black, but the numbers are in the red:
American high-speed rail boosters often yearn that the rail networks of Europe and China could be brought to our shores. A look across the pond suggests that some of these “model” high-speed rail systems aren’t doing so hot. Consider the Netherlands, which is now dealing with the fallout of its own botched high-speed rail project.

The Dutch plan began modestly, as an attempt to increase travel speeds between Amsterdam and Brussels, two important cities that are only 127 miles apart. When the system was unveiled in late 2012, however, it immediately became an “utter debacle,” in the words of one labor leader. After less than a month of operation, the service was shut down due to repeated mechanical failures, software malfunctions, and poor maintenance which frequently left passengers stranded in the middle of the route.
Oh, about those numbers:
The Dutch state pays ProRail and Infraspeed about €10m per month to operate the line, which it expects to regain through payments from train companies that use the line, said Rob Goverde, a railway expert at Delft Technical University. The NS won the contract to operate Fyra in 2001 by offering to pay the state €167m per year, a bid considered far too high by independent experts, and which was sharply reduced last year when the Fyra appeared at risk of bankruptcy.
As usual, Walter Russell Mead asks the proper question:
This is an embarrassment for the countries involved, but it is also a bad sign for similar projects in the US. If high speed rail isn’t working in one of the most densely populated and affluent corridors on Earth, and if Europeans with decades of experience can’t keep the service running, what does this tell us about California’s chances?
Nothing good. On the bright side, the current projected cost of the line in California is only $78 billion.


Bike Bubba said...

My take is that rail promoters really need to take some remedial physics. The long and short of it is that rail is an environmental and economic debacle.

Mr. D said...

A 19th Century solution to 21st Century concerns, Bubba.