Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An American TGV?

Ray LaHood, the American secretary of transportation, is in France to study the TGV. The US is preparing to invest $13 billion in high-speed rail. LaHood called the French system splendid. It's time for Sarkozy l'Américain, hyper-VRP, to revive his love of America, which seems to have waned somewhat since the election of Obama. Sarko didn't mind lavishing affection on George Bush: befriending the friendless W made Sarko look magnanimous. He finds it hard to conceal his jealousy of Obama's popularity, however. But French industry could use a boost right now. Let's hear three cheers for Franklin, La Fayette, les boys, and le hamburger and take another US summer vacation.


kirkmc said...

And, wouldntcha figure, he comes on a day that the SNCF (well, part of it) is on strike. As usual, France shows its good side to foreign inverstors. (To be fair, I don't thin the SNCF actually has anything to do with selling the TGV...)


Unknown said...

Perhaps not, but the matter of operating costs would be a significant consideration in any US purchase, and it would be difficult to make any direct comparison because of differences in the US labor market, French government subsidies to the SNCF, etc.

Leo said...

Art, to be precise, I don't think the French government subsidizes SNCF.
They just carry the cost of past pensions when they had several hundred thousand employees.

What they do subsidize is the infrastructure, i.e. the rail system housed in Réseau Ferré de France.

The TGV is a very well run and extremely profitable venture. They have a very flexible pricing policy initially based on airline yield management (their first reservation system had been purchased from American Airline's Sabre). Because of that, they have the highest load factor in the industry.

I guess operating costs would be lower in the US which would be exempt from SNCF's bizarre work practices. But that would also be true with the Japanese built Shinkansen (incidentally even more impressive than the TGV) or the German ICE.

Boz said...

Trains are a great idea until you realize the price of a trip. Certain local lines (Worcester to Boston) are tolerable, but I think I'll stick with the $15 Chinatown inspired buses along the coast...