A French rail company has pulled its operations from California and shifted focus to projects in North Africa, which it describes as a “less dysfunctional” place.
SNCF, the French national railroad, was among bullet train operators from Europe and Japan that came to California in the early 2000s.
The company hoped to help develop America’s first bullet train, which would connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.
On Sunday, The New York Times published a lengthy essay about how California’s “bullet train” failed.
The doomed project failed despite the fervent desire of Gov. Jerry Brown (D) that it be built, and the investments of both the Obama and Biden administrations in its supposed construction.
Voters approved the first bond for the “bullet train” under the California High-Speed Rail Authority by referendum in Proposition 1A in 2008.
Gov. Brown, a Democrat, championed the project during his third and fourth terms in office, calling it central to the fight against climate change.
The Times reported:
Now, as the nation embarks on a historic, $1 trillion infrastructure building spree, the tortured effort to build the country’s first high-speed rail system is a case study in how ambitious public works projects can become perilously encumbered by political compromise, unrealistic cost estimates, flawed engineering and a determination to persist on projects that have become, like the crippled financial institutions of 2008, too big to fail.
The state was warned repeatedly that its plans were too complex. SNCF, the French national railroad, was among bullet train operators from Europe and Japan that came to California in the early 2000s with hopes of getting a contract to help develop the system.
“There were so many things that went wrong,” Mr. McNamara said. “SNCF was very angry. They told the state they were leaving for North Africa, which was less politically dysfunctional. They went to Morocco and helped them build a rail system.”
Over time, the project grew more and more expensive, rising from an initial estimate of $37 billion in 2008 to nearly $100 billion according to an estimate last year.
Upon taking office in 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) canceled the high-speed rail project because he said it would “cost too much” and “take too long.”
President Donald Trump then tried to have $1 billion that federal taxpayers had already paid into the project returned to the federal government.
But Biden and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg restored the funding.
The Biden admin hopes to fight climate change by building a high-speed rail link between sparsely-populated rural cities in the Central Valley that are most often traversed by car.