Thursday, April 14, 2011

Who, or what, is going to be building high-speed rail in America?

Click on the URL:  You can see more shots of this track-laying machine. Count the number of workers you see operating this machine.  Millions of jobs in HSR construction?  I don't think so.

As I like to say, railroad construction is no longer the world of John Henry, swinging his mighty hammer.  It's no longer pick-and-shovel labor.  It requires considerable technical expertise.

Who, do you suppose, builds the machines that are replacing manual labor in the railroad construction business?

It's a long list of countries -- several Scandanavian countries, India, Spain and Russia -- but none are US firms.

What does that tell you about all the jobs that the construction of high-speed rail is going to produce in California, or in the rest of the US? The manufacturing of rolling stock and other stuff for HSR will also come from overseas, of course.

The first set of pictures come from a publication that supports high-speed rail.

The irony is that the article advocates HSR development on employment grounds. Yet the accompanying photos suggest anything but. Older photos of railroad construction always showed hundreds of laborers carrying, hammering, and investing massive sweat equity into their jobs.

The bigger picture is that the entire history of the Industrial Revolution and its purpose was to increase productivity.  Not out of charity for mankind, but to increase profits.  That process is still under way.

The Information Technology Revolution has done pretty much the same thing for office work as well as manufacturing and the service industry.  It has reduced the necessity of so many actual hands on the job, increasing per capita productivity immensely.  And profits even more so, since a lower payroll is now
required. That's one reason why so many US jobs have been lost permanently.

Ditto all that for railroad construction.  Yes, building a railroad from scratch today is still labor-intensive, but far less so than it was decades ago. It has become far more technical, complex and far more computer and specialized machine-intensive.

We've previously shown photos of TBM, tunnel boring machines, now in unversal use.  Rail laying machines, seen here, are also standard today, around the world.

Let's get over this misconception that building high-speed rail is good for America because so many construction workers are going to be hired.  The Unions, promoting this notion, keep the Democrats tied to their campaign contribution leash.  But it's a tragic mistake.  Furthermore, though not all by any means, much of the ARRA stimulus money is not going to be stimulating very much in California or the US.  It will be headed overseas to buy things such as railroad trains, and provide the profits for companies headquartered overseas, such as Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Fellow taxpayers, we are being had!