Sunday, November 07, 2010
Europe, however, is developing an extensive high speed rail network. Even the British, who shared the Chunnel project with the French, decided that the only way the Chunnel actually made sense was to build a high speed rail connection from London through Kent to connect up with the Chunnel.
Voila! High Speed One... or just HS1 if you like. 108 km of high speed electric rail system connected to the tunnel under the English Channel, connected to the TGV high speed system in France which can get you from downtown London to a fine French hamburger in downtown Paris, (just 35 minutes from Disneyland Europe), in a wee bit over 2 hours. The price? $157.
Except that in 2009 the whole High Speed One thing ran into some financial difficulties brought about by bankers exercising their right to be unfettered free market freebooters and, (before those same bankers insisted that the middle income earners of the world keep them in the opulence to which they claim to be entitled), brought about the near collapse of the pride of the British rail system.
The British government had to step in and take over HS1, lock, stock, barrel and a massive debt.
In case you hadn't noticed, the British government also had to bail out the Thatcherised British banks to the tune of gazillions of Euros and, after an election which produced a coalition government in which the knobs who helped create the global financial mess held the strongest hand, were faced with national bankruptcy. They decided to sell a whopping 16 billion pounds worth of state assets.
The British government put HS1, the infrastructure on which all those lovely 300 km/h electric trains run, up for sale. Asking price 1.5 billion pounds sterling.
Who has that kind of money, you may ask? (If you weren't asking, I'm happy to do it for you.)
Teachers. And municipal maintenance workers. In Ontario. Canada. At least, their pension plans do. The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan is one of the richest in the world and the wealthiest single-profession pension plan in Canada. The Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System operates OMERS worldwide which in turn operates an infrastructure investment arm known as Borealis.
These two got together and, after sending a Goldman-Sachs consortium packing, paid... wait for it... 2.1 billion pounds sterling for a rail system which cost 5.7 billion pounds to build.
Canada still doesn't have a high speed rail system. But Canadians own one.