California bullet train could end up needing subsidies, despite promises to voters
Date: 05-29-2020 - 14:31
I don't think there's any passenger train, high speed or otherwise, that makes enough money to cover operating, capital, and administrative costs. That, plus profit, is what's needed for a fully private railroad to run. Texas HSR and Virgin to Vegas (oh that sounds horrible!) and Virgin/Brightline all claim to do that, but except perhaps for Texas HSR all have used fiddles like tax-exempt bonds to keep financing costs down.
I understand that some of the oldest French lines have now paid off their initial capital cost, after more than 30 years. Much like with bridge tolls, by the time you "pay off" the bridge you've also had to cover maintenance and operations, and have to build up some kind of reserve against capital rehab and improvements over time. So even those French trains almost certainly get some kind of subsidy.
In general, passenger trains, at best, cover only direct operating cost (labor and supplies for running the trains). The rest usually comes from public sources, one way or another. It makes no sense to think that HSR would be any different. If that doesn't agree with yet another of those poison pills Kopp stuck in the proposition (like the unrealistic travel time target, absent maglev or hyperloop, and other magical thinking), well, what are we going to do about it? Yes, a court will probably have to decide.