Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wisconsin votes to mothball Talgo, use conventional Amtrak cars

State legislature votes to throw away $72 million in sunk costs and continue using 20-30 year old equipment as well as open themselves up to lawsuit by Talgo. Now, granted that sunk costs are generally fallacious, but choosing to mothball available equipment in favor of increasingly decrepit equipment that will need to be replaced in the near future anyhow is just absurd.

However, now that they've indicated that they have no wish for the train sets, this represents a golden opportunity for the state of California. Two bargain price Talgo sets plus a maintenance facility would allow for an ahead of schedule introduction of California's planned Coast Daylight service between Los Angeles and San Francisco (via Oakland). The maintenance facility which was the sticking point for Wisconsin may be cheaper for California as well thanks to the opportunity to colocate with Metrolink, Caltrain, or Amtrak facilities. Use of Talgo sets may additionally allow for a decreased running time from the current 11-12 hours, an important consideration with a daylight running train. That said, I am of the opinion that, using conventional trains, a sleeper service would be far more successful than a daylight train in terms of cost recovery and patronage since it would result in little to no productive time loss, in contrast to a daylight train which absorbs the whole day and is not time competitive with cars.

An added advantage to California purchasing these train sets is that Wisconsin could then use the money to purchase additional conventional rail cars in joint with California, Illinois, and other states later this year, adding capacity and replacing older equipment even without the Talgos.


  1. The only hope is that WI voters wise up toss that POS Walker and his cronies out. Otherwise, the Badger State is going to be stuck with all of the ugly Horizon equipment while their neighbors decide to get REAL equipment.

  2. It is MUCH more likely that Washington State will swoop in to buy these. Washington is already Talgo-heavy and needs additional Talgos; this could save them a bundle.

  3. The issues relating to the recall initiative against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are deep and divisive, and those that relate to passenger rail can best be described as a "raindrop in Lake Michigan".

    The New York Times has published a long and detailed investigative report, using the resources for investigative reporting that only The Times has at their disposal, exploring the issues leading to this drastic measure of a recall initiative. Here isd a link to The Times report:

    And, for ready reference, here is a Brief Passage comprising in its entirety mention of the passenger rail issue:
    During his campaign for governor in 2010, Walker promised to create 250,000 private-sector jobs, which he recently reaffirmed. According to the most recent monthly survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state has lost more than 21,000 nonfarm jobs since April of last year. Despite Wisconsin’s economic struggles, Walker has defended his decision to turn down $810 million in federal stimulus money for a proposed high-speed rail link between Madison and Milwaukee.
    All told, I believe Gov. Walker will prevail and that the recall initiative will prove unsuccessful. This is my personal hope, but on the other hand, if I were a Wisconsin resident, I might have a "bone or two to pick" with him down at the Firehouse come November 2014.


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