Rail of fail

Nearly 420 million people are reported to have used China’s high-speed rail system during the annual Spring Festival holiday that has just wrapped up. Late last year, China opened the Vibrant Express, Hong Kong’s first bullet train, which zips passengers from the Special Administrative Region to Guangzhou in 48 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the US:

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday he’s abandoning a plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a project with an estimated cost that has ballooned to $77 billion.

“Let’s be real,” Newsom said in his first State of the State address. “The current project, as planned, would cost too much and respectfully take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.”

The idea long championed by Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, is years behind schedule. The latest estimate for completion is 2033.

Newsom, though, said he wants to finish construction that’s already underway on a segment of the high-speed train through California’s Central Valley, arguing it will revitalize the economically depressed region. He’s also replacing Brown’s head of the state board that oversees the project and pledged more accountability for contractors that run over on costs.

One can’t really blame the new governor for this, as the promise of an LA-to-SF bullet train, which California voters approved in 2008, has always been a huge scam:

When California voters approved construction of a bullet train in 2008, they had a legal promise that passengers would be able to speed from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes.

But over the next decade, the state rail authority made a series of political and financial compromises that slowed speeds on long stretches of the track.

The authority says it can still meet its trip time commitments, though not by much.

Computer simulations conducted earlier this year by the authority, obtained by The Times under a public records act request, show the bullet train is three minutes and 10 seconds inside the legal mandate.

Such a tight margin of error has some disputing whether the rail network will regularly hit that two-hour-40 minute time, in part because the assumptions that went into those simulations are highly optimistic and unproven. The premise hinges on trains operating at higher speeds than virtually all the systems in Asia and Europe; human train operators consistently performing with the precision of a computer model; favorable deals on the use of tracks that the state doesn’t even own; and amicable decisions by federal safety regulators.

And let’s not even get started on the New York City subway.

Actually, let’s.

Camp Fire

Some views of the horrible Camp Fire that is raging in Northern California:

Eerie video that looks like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie:

(Source)

(Source)

It’s growing rapidly and there are more fires devastating CA:

A wildfire destroyed most of a Northern California town of 27,000 people. A Cal Fire spokesman said “there’s nothing much left standing” in Paradise.

Late Friday morning, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office said investigators found five victims’ bodies in vehicles overcome by the so-called “Camp Fire” in Paradise. The victims have not been identified.

Two more fires are burning north of Los Angeles. Fires across the state have forced 157,000 people from their homes, according to Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. […]

A California fire official said the Camp Fire nearly quadrupled in size overnight. Capt. Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the fire near the town of Paradise has grown to 70,000 acres, which is nearly 110 square miles.

The entire city of Malibu was ordered to evacuate Friday morning as the Woolsey Fire roared toward the beachside community that is home for many Hollywood celebrities. A city-wide evacuation was ordered early Friday and then was scaled back, only to be reinstated.