Wednesday 12 October 2022

Rail dysfunction

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.

The company’s recommendations for a direct route out of Los Angeles and a focus on moving people between Los Angeles and San Francisco were cast aside, said Dan McNamara, a career project manager for SNCF.‌

The company‌ ‌pulled out in 2011.

“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.”

Morocco’s bullet train started service in 2018.

Politicians decided to route the thing to meet political constraints rather than engineering constraints. Then they decided to start building it in the middle, where there were no people, so you couldn't build one leg and build out from a working section.  

You can't outsource your way out of that kind of problem. You can ask experts who are skilled in delivery to come in and help, but if you make it impossible, it just won't work. 

In New Zealand's case, contracting in expert rail builders wouldn't be enough. You'd have to outsource the entire consenting and planning structure around it at the same time. 

Meanwhile, NZ's Rail and Maritime Transport Union says it's impossible for KiwiRail ever to be profitable

Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) general secretary Wayne Butson said it was “nuts” that KiwiRail was an SOE.  “If you have a look at the SOE Act, it’s very clear: it has to be an entity that’s able to make a profit. KiwiRail is not going to make a profit, not in my lifetime – and probably never, I would speculate.” 

If rail can't pay its way, it should be shutting down unprofitable services. But the roading network should also have to pay its own way, including a return on capital.

No comments:

Post a Comment