California High Speed Rail Could Use Some Spanish Lessons

Tim Sheehan investigates the lessons -- both successes and mistakes -- that can be learned from Spain's 20-year history with high speed trains.
January 18, 2012, 6am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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With every news cycle, the prospects for California's High Speed Rail being constructed seem to become more remote. Having spent $60 billion to build its high speed network since the late 1980s, with a geographic and cultural setting most analogous to California, and touted by the Obama administration as the model for its HSR plans, Sheehan examines the key ways in which Spain's experiences can help the Golden State navigate the track ahead.

Unfortunately for California, top among the lessons learned "is just how hard it is to be self-sufficient, even when conditions seem ideal, as they have in Spain."

"It can be a failure or a fiasco if it starts in two cities that aren't as well populated or if there isn't as much attraction," says Pedro Pérez del Campo, environmental policy director for ADIF. "The lesson is to do it right the first time, or extending it will not be possible because the public won't be in agreement. The people here have been in agreement."

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