May 11, 2014

China wants to build a "China-Russia-Canada-America" train line — 8,000 miles long (and 125 miles of it under water).

The underwater part sounds especially daring. That's 4 times as long as the Chunnel through the English Channel. And X times as cold up there in the Bering Strait.

By the way, you know what we don't hear much about lately? That high-speed train line they're building in California — you know, the $6+-billion line that connects Bakersfield to Fresno... and theoretically at some point will connect L.A. and San Francisco. I see it did make the news a few days ago, when the predicted cost rose another $1 billion. Now it's $7.13 billion.
"A $1-billion cost increase at this point in the project is concerning, to put it mildly," said William Ibbs, a UC Berkeley civil engineer who has consulted on high-speed-rail projects around the world.
"At this point" = before construction has even begun.

49 comments:

Jack Wayne said...

Not to mention the politicians are lying about that amount.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

That high-speed train line they're building in California — you know, the $6+-billion line that connects Bakersfield to Fresno.

Cheer up! There's news! Chris Reed at Cal Watchdog.com has that boondoggle dead in his sights, and it's worse than we imagine by an order of magnitude. Here's a snippet:

“URS Corp. — the San Francisco engineering firm hired to determine the updated cost — reportedly complained in March that it had been ‘instructed’ by the authority to have its numbers be in line with what was projected in the bullet train’s 2012 business plan. URS refused in a carefully worded message that clearly implied the authority wanted it to violate state ethical guidelines for licensed professionals.

In other words, to lie about the 15% increase in the estimated cost.

- See more at: http://calwatchdog.com/2014/05/09/63423/#sthash.XrGRHx96.dpuf

Anonymous said...

The Chinese actually might be able to pull off such a massive project. Of course the United States can't.

Peter

St. George said...

Crazy talk. Now that the Chinese have built dozens of "ghost" cities, they've got to go wild on something else.

Skyler said...

We don't need that type of technical challenge for a service that is not needed. We have ships and planes, both of which transit freely without negotiating rights of way, and can always change paths and destinations as the need arises. What value would such a train add, besides kick backs to politicians?

Freeman Hunt said...

The idea of being underwater for 125 miles makes me nauseous.

MadisonMan said...

At the bottom of the ocean, there's not much difference, temperature wise, between the English Channel and the Bering Straits.

john said...

Can't you see it coming folks? This is the Battle Beneath the Earth, part deux.

David said...

St. George said...
Crazy talk.


Those flying machines will never work either.

My prediction: It will happen some day.

Easy for me to say, as I'll be long gone when it does.

Anonymous said...

Will there also be a just machine to make big decisions, programmed by fellas with compassion and vision?

David said...

Skyler said...
What value would such a train add, besides kick backs to politicians?


Greatly lowered financial and environmental costs for the freight delivered are two pretty important ones.

Freight by rail is the most efficient by far, a fact often forgotten by the high speed trainers who compare USA unfavorable with European rail systems. They are right if you only consider passenger traffic, but completely ignore the huge US advantage in transportation of freight.

David said...

Freeman Hunt said...
The idea of being underwater for 125 miles makes me nauseous.


125 miles on the surface of those waters would probably be worse. Certainly it would take longer.

grackle said...

By the way, you know what we don't hear much about lately? That high-speed train line they're building in California … I see it did make the news a few days ago, when the predicted cost rose another $1 billion. Now it's $7.13 billion.

Contrast this with Texas. The pols there also wanted to use taxpayer money but Texans are not so compliant as Californians. If it gets built it will be built by private funds.

Personally, I think the investors will lose their shirts, but hey, it's their money. It's got a chance, that is if the government stays out of it.

http://tinyurl.com/mondrql

Greg Hlatky said...

Yesterday's technology, tomorrow's costs.

The Godfather said...

I took the train through the Chunnel (they don't seem to call it that any more, but that's how I still think of it) several years ago. Several decades ago, I took a hovercraft across the Channel. Good experiences both.

The problem with hi-speed rail isn't that it doesn't provide a service, it's that it provides the service at an exorbitant cost. It only works if you have someone to subsidize the cost. This person is known as "the sucker", and is usually the tax payer.

Original Mike said...

I saw an Extreme Engineering episode that discussed a bridge across the Bering Strait. Compared to that, I think a tunnel would be a cake walk.

virgil xenophon said...

Lets see, the current largest tunnel borer in the world is stuck (i.e., broken) underneath Seattle with projected repair costs and project accomplishment looking like they will put Boston's "Big Dig" to shame, so taxpayers have a lot to look foreward to..

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

It sounds more like a Shelbyville idea to me.

The Drill SGT said...

If all the leftists were serious about building high speed rail in CA, they'd start at SFO airport and build South thru Menlo Atherton.

The advantage would be that when it ultimately fails due to costs, at least the rump that was built would be of value. Connecting to the Southern BART stop. Rather than connecting to Central Valley townlets...

The Disadvantage is that there will never be a route approved thru the Google Millionaire South Bay. So why spend 5-10 Billion dollars building up from LA before finding that out in failure?

Hagar said...

You may become nauseated Freeman; I doubt you can ever be nauseous.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

California.

Paradise on earth, run by the most corrupt, asinine, self-serving, smug, arrogant assholes in politics.

Ronald Reagan, how we miss you.

Steven said...

If they're talking freight (which given the context of the New Silk Road also mentioned in the article, it seems to be), it's potentially quite interesting. I expect Alaskans would like to go from not connected by freight rail to anywhere else to connected to both the Afro-eurasian and North American rail networks.

Marshal said...

If not for Scott Walker Wisconsin taxpayers would be on the hook for the escalating costs of their own boondoggle.

Alex said...

We just NEED a train line from Siberia to Alaska said millions of commuters... NEVER

sinz52 said...

What California is planning isn't even "high speed rail" by European or Chinese standards.

It's going to go about 150 mph, which is already hopelessly outclassed by China's maglev trains that go twice that fast.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3VnMyo1Gn4

CA "high speed rail" is already obsolete and they haven't even built a mile of track yet.

By the time the CA line is built, it's going to look like a steam locomotive against the infrastructure that the Chinese and Europeans will have.

Original Mike said...

"If all the leftists were serious about building high speed rail in CA, they'd start at SFO airport and build South thru Menlo Atherton."

Yep.

Anonymous said...

Most realists have already acknowledged quietly that the California high-speed rail proposal is a boondoggle that doesn't come close to meeting the requirements of the voter-approved giant bond issue. But in a state where blue model fantasies reign and the governor claims financial success while the enormous overhang of unfunded pensions and medical is waiting to crush us, so much fantasy capital is invested in it that the politicians are waiting for the courts to kill it so they can blame someone else for the mess. Blue model politicians screw up every major project; billions are wasted so paper pushers can keep their jobs.

The Bering Straits rail line and tunnel are obviously a bad idea, about as likely as the proposal to blow a canal through the Isthmus of Panama with nuclear explosives back in the 50s. Ring of Fire, cost, better options....

The Drill SGT said...

connected to both the Afro-eurasian and North American rail networks.

sort of

the gauges are not the same...

US and China = 4' 8"

Russian = 5'

madAsHell said...

Some muslim will assume that the tunnel is an insult to allah.

Drago said...

David: "They are right if you only consider passenger traffic, but completely ignore the huge US advantage in transportation of freight."

There must be a S***-load of cargo volume requiring transport between Bakersfield and Fresno!

And the timing is even better now that the lefty environmentalists have cut the "water legs" right out from under the central valley farmer/growers!

Forward! To the Future! Which just happens to be "Choo-choos!"

Drago said...

David: "Freight by rail is the most efficient by far, a fact often forgotten by the high speed trainers who compare USA unfavorable with European rail systems."

Rail is not the most efficient by far for freight when you factor in the actual specific end-destination.

Freight is more efficient for major node to major node transport. Once you hit your target region however, your "freight" usually needs to be unloaded, reloaded and transported to all the "one to many" target endpoints.

This is not a "minor" consideration.

Ann Althouse said...

"If not for Scott Walker Wisconsin taxpayers would be on the hook for the escalating costs of their own boondoggle."

I was a single-issue voter for Walker in 2010, and this was the issue.

southcentralpa said...

Umm, okay, it sounds like either a History2 documentary or an April Fool's prank.

The local paper had a fascinating piece on 01APR about how the state DOT had issued an innovative grant to build an OVERpass over our town instead of BYpassing it ...

(Just in case they're serious, they'd almost certainly have to sink down prefab segments since I don't think the floor of the Bering Sea would be suitable for tunneling, but that's a whole blog by itself...)

Joe said...

Many years ago, I went to Paris on a business trip. My co-worker and I debated taking the train to London through the Chunnel. Then we looked at the price. It was enormous. (This was before European airline deregulation. Now, it's cheaper to take Ryanair amongst others.)

SteveR said...

No matter how you build it, it will not exist until I'm long dead so dream on.

David said...

Drago, there are already two (2) freight railroads handling freight between Bakersfield and Fresno. We don't need another one.

Larry J said...

ironrailsironweights said...
The Chinese actually might be able to pull off such a massive project. Of course the United States can't.

Peter


The Chinese don't have to bother with environmentalists or the environmental bureaucracy. They're very polluted as a result. There should be some sane middle ground between being polluted like China and being crippled (development wise) like the US.

Paul said...

" At the bottom of the ocean, there's not much difference, temperature wise, between the English Channel and the Bering Straits."

Plus that's where all the missing global warming went. Down there. In the ocean's depths. For real.

holdfast said...

It can't be both freight and passenger over that route. Either you are moving people at a pathetically slow rate, or you're moving cargo at a rate that is totally wasteful of energy.

And you can't tell me that a train is less energy-intensive than a massive container-carrying ship.

Paul said...

Yep the liberal geniuses out here are gonna spend billions on a sorta high speed train to nowhere, but at least they're dumping millions of acre feet of water into the Delta to help the Delta Smelt while we're in a drought, turning the croplands into a dustbowl putting millions of farm workers out of work and jacking up the water rates.

tim in vermont said...

"By the time the CA line is built, it's going to look like a steam locomotive against the infrastructure that the Chinese and Europeans will have."

While we muddle around using our jet aircraft trying our best to earn a living to pay for the cushy jobs for lazy slobs.

The Godfather said...

It is true, all else equal, that freight rail costs are cheaper if you don't have to transfer the lading from the train to (say) a ship, and then from the ship to another train. But to accomplish this savings you'd have to incur the huge cost (a) to build, operate, and maintain the 125 mile tunnel under the Bering Strait, and (b) to build, operate, and maintain a rail line thousands of miles long through the barren wastes of Siberia and Alaska, from/to the nearest substantial markets in northeast China and the northwest US/Canada. I'd be very surprised if the origin to destination cost on such a rail line were less than ocean shipping.

Of course, it's the Chinese that are proposing this, and I understand from Thomas Friedman that they're pretty savvy. So maybe I'm missing something.

Douglas said...

David,

Shipping freight by water is much more fuel efficient than shipping it by train. http://truecostblog.com/2010/05/27/fuel-efficiency-modes-of-transportation-ranked-by-mpg/;http://truecostblog.com/2009/11/23/is-local-really-greener-than-global/. There is thus no efficiency advantage in building this proposed train.

Angela Navejas said...

Sea shipping is much more inexpensive when compared to shipping by air. The only drawback of sea shipping is that it is time taking.

Shipping from USA to India | Shipping from India to USA

tim maguire said...

I have no opinion on whether the idea is feasible (though it's quite cool), but there is one factor we are leaving out of our calculations--timeliness.

Cargo ships can take weeks to get from China to California. If this train can do it in days, that's a pretty big deal.

Big Mike said...

And the China-Russia-Canada-United States train would probably cost less to build and be better-engineered than what the Californians will do trying to get from LA to San Francisco.

That's assuming both lines get built. Most likely scenario is that neither gets built but if only one gets built I'd bet on China-Russia-Canada-United States over LA to San Francisco.

John Lynch said...

I cannot imagine how this could possibly be more efficient than ships. It makes no sense at all, which makes me wonder why it would even be talked about. There must be some political motive for musing about an 8,000 mile rail line with no economic purpose.

DanTheMan said...

>>There must be some political motive for musing about an 8,000 mile rail line with no economic purpose.

The Chinese take the long view. It's to facilitate resupply of their invasion force.

MT MightyTravels said...

Fascinating idea! Unless it'll only be used for transporting cargo, I'd get on this train in a heartbeat(although I guess I'll be waiting a long, long time)...