In 1959, fourteen months after Japanese officials had surrendered to end WWII, Japanese officials committed to creating an express train. The approximately 320 miles of high-speed track was scheduled to be run from Tokyo up to Osaka and would be scheduled to run to the 1964 Olympics. It was inaugurated just days prior to the Olympics with a price of around 80 million dollars. Since that time, Japan has built fast railways that operate from various prefectures. Another line will run from Tokyo through Nogawa and later Osaka by 2027. The next generation of the bullet train is expected to be able to travel at a staggering 300 miles per hour. It's astonishing how efficient Japan's bullet trains are and also how safe. For the past 50 years that they've been running for, there have been zero fatalities.
One of the fastest trains in America is Amtrak that reaches speeds of 100MPH or so. In a 14-year span, Amtrak has had 222 deaths.
The Sunday New York Times included an article about California's boondoggle with a bullet train.
Californians voted for a bond initiative in 2008 to construct an express train. The train was planned to be constructed between Los Angeles to San Francisco with a cost estimated at $33 billion. It was expected to be completed in 2020. What's the speed of California's Bullet Train? It is able to travel at a staggering speed of zero miles per hour. It's not been constructed. The estimated cost ranged in the range of $33-$113 billion but only Pollyannaish politicians believe that California is going to have a bullet train any time soon.
Why hasn't it been constructed? Ineffective California political system. Experts who build bullet trains were hired. In The New York Times:
“SNCF is the French national railway, and was among the railway operators operating on bullet trains in Europe and Japan who were brought to California in the early 2000s in the hope of securing an investment contract to build the system.”
However, SNCF quit in 2011. Executives saw cronyism and political potholes in every corner. However, SNCF went to Morocco. In less than six years, it completed the line of bullet trains in Morocco. The train didn't come back to California ever. There's a lot of inefficiency and confusion throughout California. California is in a state of chaos. The California construction project was so shaky that California was offering bid contracts before they had even acquired the land they wanted to build on. The farmers in the central valley weren't so keen to see their land divided by an elevated railway line. They filed suit, which delayed the construction and added billions.
There were also route changes. SNCF suggested a direct line between LA through San Francisco. It was logical and it's clear that's what the bond issue was intended to be used for. The politicians did not say no.
An LA County Supervisor wanted the train to be able to traverse his district, which encompassed the top of the Mojave desert as well as Palmdale. For those who aren't familiar with the region of Southern California, that change required the northern portion of the line to be an additional 41 miles long. The cost of the project went up. Time was also wasted. This added another $8.5 billion. The State is currently spending around 1.8 million each day. There are indeed crews working and concrete is being laid throughout the Central Valley but what is the final outcome? If you asked those who quit the project a few years ago because of frustration, this project is not going anywhere fast.
Where is the California bullet train today? It's still largely on paper. The New York Times article included an artist's sketch of the bullet train gliding across an area of desert terrain. In the background, there are wind turbines. The image is aptly placed with a pillar of the railway line that is buried just across an unpaved road. It's a good illustration of the boondoggle.
If you asked California's Governor Gavin Newsom, the project is progressing at the speed of light. There's a “starter” line in the middle of the state that could have a chance of not being completed to service one of the planned terminus points – San Francisco. Silicon Valley billionaires want the rail line to ensure that workers who are excluded from the Bay region can buy or rent out a space in central California, and commute to work. What are the chances for a rail line that would be able to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco and the points in between? It's about the pace of California's Bullet Train.