The state rail authority has grossly underestimated future operating costs of California's proposed bullet train, meaning taxpayers potentially will have to provide billions of dollars annually once the system is running, according to an analysis released Monday by a group of outside financial experts.
The California High Speed Rail Authority's claim that its future system would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in surpluses is based on unrealistic assumptions about what it will cost to operate the network, according to the study group, which included former World Bank official William Grindley and Stanford University management professor Alain C. Enthoven.
The rail authority claims it can operate the 510-mile system at a cost of about 10 cents per passenger mile, less than one-fourth of the 40 cents to 50 cents it costs high speed rail operators in other countries, the analysis found. If California's bullet train operating costs rise to the international average, losses will range from $2 billion to $9 billion annually, according to the report.
"We are confounded by where the authority is getting its operating costs," Grindley said.
The group, which also includes Silicon Valley executives William Warren and Alan Bushell, has written a series of financial assessments of the bullet train plan that sharply question its economics. The four experts are affiliated with the Community Coalition on High Speed Rail, located in the Bay Area.