But, first, some local news:
Mission Viejo, a town in southern California (Orange County) opposes high-speed rail and supports Assemblywoman Diane Harkey's AB 1455, the "High-Speed Lemon Law." There are many other cities in California, north and south that have taken it upon themselves to vote down the high-speed rail project passing through their borders.
But, here's the real story of the day and it's from Venezuela. The article is from the on-line International Herald Tribune.
Talk about social engineering!
Il Presidente Chavez (who, by the way, now has a recurrence of cancer) has been shoving a new high-speed train down the throats of Venezuelans because his government wants to move lots of people from where it's habitable and where they want to live, to where it isn't habitable, and they don't want to live. Sounds much like the Chinese agenda for their country also. I strongly suspect that if Chavez were to die or retire, the project would vaporize.
As you read the article, a lot of it will sound familiar to you if you have been a follower of the California high-speed rail project.
They have dragged the Chinese into this for both loans, construction, and trains. Boy, will they come to regret that. They are talking about a $7.5 billion deal with the Chinese.
Attention Jerry Brown, Governor of California: "That’s the thing about Socialist central planners: they don’t start with the world as it is and ask themselves how to make it better for the people living in it. They start with the world as they imagine it ought to be and force that vision onto the people whether the people want it or not."
Jobs? You want to know about jobs? "Local people perform only unskilled physical work on the line, and they’re grateful even for that."
This story is almost one for the movies. A heavy-handed dictator demands a train to be cut through the jungle infested with all sorts of insects and diseases. They build this train at enormous cost to the country including the cost of many lives. They bring in a foreign dictatorship country to build the train. And like leeches, the builders who lend the funds get to suck vast riches in profits from this jungle country. When it's completed, nobody rides the train. And, slowly, at the end, the jungle takes over the rail-line, overgrowing it with vines, taking it back into the underbrush until it disappears.
Well, that certainly can't happen here in California, like in the Central Valley, can it?
Oh, and before I forget, here's another article about commuter trains. The lesson here? Trains are not perfect. Stuff happens. And, when trains full of people go 220 mph, the disaster is far worse than we can now imagine. This article is also from today, 2.22.12.
February 22, 2012, 4:32 AM
Chávez’s Great Train Robbery
By FRANCISCO TORO
ORTIZ, Venezuela — Isolated, scrubby and scorching hot, the edge of Venezuela’s central plains just south of the heavily populated coastal highlands isn’t exactly tourist-brochure material. A few towns and no cities are scattered throughout the area, and agriculture there has been depressed for years.
Although its sparseness would seem to make this part of the plains particularly ill-suited as the location for a massive new high-speed rail project, sure enough, that’s exactly what state planners are building there: a $200 million railway from Tinaco, a small town about an eight hours’ drive southwest from Caracas, to Anaco, 290 miles to the east.
It’s not just a train to nowhere. It’s a train from nowhere to nowhere.
But never mind that. The Venezuelan government says it will begin passenger services on the line later this year, running Chinese trains that go 135 miles per hour. Who on earth do they imagine is going to ride this thing? New people, people who don’t live anywhere near it yet.
The line is part of a grandiose, multi-decade government plan to “rebalance” Venezuela’s population away from the compact coastal strip, where more than 65 percent of Venezuela’s 29 million people live, and toward the “Orinoco-Apure axis” farther south, where about 17 percent live. The execution is sometimes perverse: about midway on the Tinaco-Anaco line, for example, the tracks pass through Ortiz, a town of 8,000 people, instead of going through San Juan de Los Morros, a town of more than 120,000 people just 15 miles north of here.
Plans have already been put forward to extend the line past Tinaco and Anaco and connect cities that people might actually want to travel to, like Barquisimeto and Puerto La Cruz. But no detailed engineering studies have been carried out on extensions, and construction is years, if not decades, away. The same goes for the other 14 railway lines the government has said it wants to build by 2030.
Still, slogans about reasserting Venezuela’s greatness by populating the plains are repeated incessantly on state television, with little concern for what the people who will be asked to do the peopling think about all this. The reasons so many Venezuelans chose to settle in the coastal highlands rather than the central plains in the first place — quick access to the sea, better agricultural lands, respite from the punishing heat and endemic malaria — never quite enter the picture. Socialist planners in Caracas have determined that too many people have been enjoying a cool, productive and healthy lifestyle for too long.
A Chinese government loan is financing the rail project — part of a $7.5 billion deal — and a Chinese state-owned firm has been brought in to do the construction. This means the engineering and technical work on the line have been carried out by Chinese nationals living in comfortable new compounds, protected from the locals by electrified fencing. At the barracks near Ortiz, the red flag of the People’s Republic of China flutters over the ocher prefab buildings where Chinese engineers are reasserting Caracas’s sovereignty over the plains.
Local people perform only unskilled physical work on the line, and they’re grateful even for that. The towns along the proposed railway are tiny and uniformly poor. Basic road, water and electric infrastructure is precarious, with frequent power cuts. The lack of roads or basic irrigation prevents vast tracts of land from being farmed. But while the needs of the real campesinos living along the railway are going ignored, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on a high-speed train network for the notional people whom the government hopes one day to attract away from Venezuela’s urban, industrial heartlands.
That’s the thing about Socialist central planners: they don’t start with the world as it is and ask themselves how to make it better for the people living in it. They start with the world as they imagine it ought to be and force that vision onto the people whether the people want it or not.
Francisco Toro blogs about the Chávez era at CaracasChronicles.com.