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Project Type
UTRC Faculty Development Mini-grants
Project Dates
07/01/2011 - 09/30/2012
Principal Investigators
Project Status
Project Description

This research analyzes historical and contemporary case material from France and the United States in order to specify methods to attract capital investment to intercity passenger rail projects in Region II. It builds upon my previous research comparing French and American transportation prior to World War II. (Cohen, 2011; 2009; bibliography attached) Post-war France provides evidence relevant to Region II for two reasons: first, French high speed railways (hsr’s) were constructed over the past 30 years to complement a well-developed network of air and highway transport, a modal situation similar to the one that currently exists in Region II; second, France recently became the first European country to implement a true public-private partnership (PPP) for rail, through the LISEA Consortium’s successful bid to design, build, operate and maintain the South East Atlantic Line (LGVSEA) from Tours to Bordeaux. PPP is a proven business model that can be used to implement high capital cost rail projects within Region II.

My research will compare France and the LGVSEA case to American attempts, dating from the 1980’s, to implement high speed rail in states such as Florida, Texas and California. California’s currently proposed line from San Francisco to Los Angeles will receive special attention because it is based on a PPP that includes value capture in its business model. For both California and France, interviews with relevant officials (e.g., the project managers: SYSTRA/California; RFF/France-LGVSEA; the regulators: California High Speed Rail Authority and SNCF/France; and the private developers and investors) will supplement analysis of reports and financial plans in providing relevant information. Having previously studied French and American transportation systems, I possess the requisite language skills, knowledge and contacts to carry out this research. Most current research on financing high speed rail is deductive and present or future oriented, relating econometric variables such as ridership, pricing and cost to projected revenue in order to estimate the success of a project. My proposal, by way of contrast, contributes an inductive, historical approach to the literature. I ask: why did France, having previously developed hsr lines based largely on public funding, decide to utilize a PPP for its newest line? What financial and governance factors were involved? Are those factors also present in America’s hsr history? Is California using a DBOM model similar to the one for the new French line? Specifying factors relevant to successful PPP’s only occurs after examining the historical record. Unlike France and California, rail projects in Region II may develop incrementally, not jump directly to high speed. Nonetheless, French and U.S. high speed rail history remains relevant because the underlying financial factors are the same for both upgrading an existing corridor or constructing dedicated hsr tracks. In both instances, for example, public subsidies and incentives can be used to attract private investors by reducing their initial investment and/or increasing operating revenue. Thus, through analysis of rail financial history and specific cases, I will provide policy-relevant, technology-transferable information on how to successfully finance projects in Region II.