A French company helping the Californian high-speed train project leave for North Africa

  • A French public rail operator wanted to help California with its high-speed train project.
  • The company left after the state refused to listen to its recommendations, The New York Times reported.
  • “SNCF was very angry,” Dan McNamara, project manager at SNCF, told The Times.

The Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF), a French public rail operator, came to California hoping to help the state build a high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco, but left for North Africa in 2011 because the region was “less politically dysfunctional” than the Golden State.

In 7 years, they built a working high-speed rail system in Morocco, The New York Times reported.

California was looking to have the country’s first high-speed rail network, but a new Times report showed that a political disagreement over the train’s route slowed the ambitious project to a virtual standstill – and increased construction costs by billions.

The high-speed rail system, first proposed in the 1980s, would transport passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2 hours and 40 minutes. The project, approved by vote in 2008, was expected to cost $33 billion and be completed by 2020.

Reduced to 2022 and the California Speed ​​Rail Authority now estimates the cost will be $113 billion, the Times reported.

Dan McNamara, project manager for SNCF, told The Times after recommendations made by the company were ignored by the state that the company decided to pull out.

“There were so many things wrong,” McNamara told The Times. “The SNCF was very angry. They told the state that they were leaving for North Africa, which was less politically dysfunctional.”

Many of the issues surrounding the project have to do with different political figures who want the railway to run through their towns and regions, reports the Times. The original plans were supposed to have a direct route through the San Gabriel Mountains, but politicians wanted to divert the rail to the Mojave Desert and parts of central California.

Politicians in desert towns like Palmdale and Lancaster argued the diversions would deliver more passengers and help their local economies, The Times reported. Alterations to the proposed route were made at the cost of rapid construction.

Former President Donald Trump also withdrew $1 billion in funding for the project in 2019 after the federal railroad administration said the state had not made progress on the project. However, President Joe Biden reinstated much of that funding last year.

California High-Speed ​​Rail Authority continues to build: The first section of the rail is under construction in central California. The authority hopes start testing section in 2025.

Some train operators told The Times that the whole project could potentially be a failure.

“I don’t think it’s an existing project,” former rail chairman Quentin Kopp told The Times. “He’s a loser.”

Jose P. Rogers