High Speed Rail

Ailing China Set to Blow More Money on High-Speed Train to Vegas

Did they run out of overpriced, unnecessary projects in their own country?


Somebody's about to lose all his chips.

Zombie Train! No, it's not a really bad SyFy network movie. Though it is apparently both a free online game and a Halloween "haunted house" concept in California.

The zombie train we're referring to, though, is the proposed high-speed rail line from Las Vegas to "Los Angeles" (scare quotes because it doesn't get anywhere near to Los Angeles, but we'll get to that).

Reason has previously written about this effort by XpressWest, a company owned by a Las Vegas hotel and casino developer, to build this train, paid for by a $6.5 billion federal loan. The Reason Foundation (the non-profit that publishes this site and Reason magazine) investigated the company's business model and blasted it for absurdly overoptimistic operation assumptions. In 2013, their federal loan submission was rejected (technically "suspended") and while the company promised to soldier on, that seemed to be the end of it.

The bad news is that it is now apparently back from the dead. Is there good news? Possibly. Apparently they've convinced the government of China to invest in building the train, saving American taxpayers from having to bankroll this boondoggle. From Bloomberg:

A China Railway Group-led consortium and XpressWest Enterprises LLC will form a joint venture to build a high-speed railway linking Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the first Chinese-made bullet-train project in the U.S. 

Construction of the 370-kilometer (230-mile) Southwest Rail Network will begin as soon as next September, according to a statement from Shu Guozeng, an official with the Communist Party's leading group on financial and economic affairs. The project comes after four years of negotiations and will be supported by $100 million in initial capital. The statement didn't specify the project's expected cost or completion date.

The agreement, signed days before President Xi Jinping's state visit to the U.S., is a milestone in China's efforts to market its high-speed rail technology in advanced economies. The country has been pushing the technology primarily in emerging markets—often with a sales pitch from Premier Li Keqiang– as a means to project political influence. A $567 million contract last October to supply trains for Boston's subway system was China's first rail-related deal in the U.S.

There's no byline on the Bloomberg piece, which suggests this is just information being passed along without any sort of analysis, or even so much as a Google search of the project's history. A writer over at Quartz looked at the Chinese media coverage of the announcement and noticed that the project was expected to cost $12.7 billion, which is almost double the price tag they had claimed when they were trying to get money from the United States.

Neither Quartz nor Bloomberg actually looked at train's plans of operation, simply repeating that it goes from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. It doesn't get anywhere near Los Angeles, actually, and that's one of the train's big problems. The California end of the line is outside of Victorville, an 80 mile drive from Los Angeles, a trip that can take 90 minutes or more, depending on traffic. In order to "save time" taking the 80-minute train to Las Vegas, Los Angeles residents would have to drive essentially a third of the way there in the first place, then transfer to a train. And the part of the trip SoCal residents would have to drive is the part with the worst traffic.

Remarkably, XpressWest claims this awkward system would reduce traffic from Interstate 15 (the highway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas) by 25 percent or more. Meaning one of out every four travelers would take their train instead. This is a crazy contention. As the Reason Foundation noted, such projections mean this tourist train would carry four times the number of passengers as the Amtrack's Acela trains between Washington, D.C., and New York City.   

But, hey, if the Chinese government is going to bankroll it, let them try. Maybe I'll end up eating crow, and people actually will use it. But don't expect me to go looking up recipes on Pinterest just yet. XpressWest hasn't updated its "milestones" section of the site in three years. But it does now have a button to translate the pages into Chinese!

But China is having some economic problems these days (which, weirdly, are also not mentioned in these stories). If this train does fail (as it likely will), it would be yet another example of the country blowing money on infrastructure needs that don't actually exist and have no demand, like its creepy ghost cities and malls.

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  1. That sound you just heard was Thomas Friedman blowing his load.

    1. This is what everyone else heard too, right?

    2. I thought I had a strong stomach.

  2. This is still a thing?

  3. I want to know why the Las Vegas guy wants to build this train. Surely he can see the flaws in it? Or maybe the plan is to get partway there, then pressure Los Angelas into giving him a route to central L.A.

    1. Normally, I wouldn’t ask this but because it is China, the train is called XpressWest, it’s enormously unpopular, and a bit of a boondoggle to boot; the train does or would run East too, right?

  4. Bureaucrats all over the world want cake, it seems. Who knew?

  5. I want to hear from Mongo.

    1. “Mongo like candy!”

    2. “Mongo like candy!”

      1. I think you’re getting too into the character. Never go full retard RBS.

  6. Did they run out of room for Keynesian wank projects in their own country or something? The least they could do is build one of their ghost towns here; that’d be pretty fun to explore.

    1. Or the set for a zombie apocalypse reality TV show.

    2. Why are no warlords running these towns? They’re just begging for a large gang to take over.

      1. I see a libertarian opportunity.

        1. *packs flame thrower and bindle*

          Which way to China?

  7. Sounds like a damned stupid idea, but I gotta admit a train from Vegas to China would be kinda cool.

        1. It depends on how he narrowed his gaze.

          1. I forget, does the china man’s eyes slope up or down?

            1. Dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature.

                1. I think we’ve found the chink in this plan

    1. I assumed they were building a replica of Vegas somewhere in China. Complete with a Chinese version Celine Dion.

        1. I drove all night…… And caused 4 accidents

      1. So, with replicas of replicas of famous buildings?

        1. Yup. The Chinese replica replica Eiffel Tower is 5′ 10″ tall.

  8. Apparently they’ve convinced the government of China to invest in building the train


    1. Did you cross Moonbeam with Trump?

      That is pretty dangerous, LP. Consult Derpetologist when mixing volatile derps like that!

      1. It’s the natural end state. When it comes I’ll be way ahead of the rest of you.

        1. Actually, it’s not an end state, just a transitional one. In the end all derps will become one in the Great Derponic Convergence. And its stupidity will engulf us all.

      2. Isn’t Sanders Trump + Moonbeam?

  9. Ha, ha, ha, the fools, just wait until I build my High Speed Penny Farthing Bicycle line between LA and Los Vegas, it will get 410% of the passenger traffic and make me rich.


  10. “It doesn’t get anywhere near Los Angeles, actually, and that’s one of the train’s big problems. The California end of the line is outside of Victorville, an 80 mile drive from Los Angeles, a trip that can take 90 minutes or more, depending on traffic.”

    It should also be noted that the casinos don’t want to make it easy to get to a train station by rail either. The reason the monorail has been such an abyssal, bankrupt failure in Las Vegas is because it doesn’t run from the airport to the casinos for a couple of reasons. 1) The taxis don’t want to be put out of business and, more importantly, 2) The casinos want to make it as hard has possible to go from one casino to the other. The monorail in Vegas only runs between the casinos of the same ownership and the convention center–and that’s it.

    That’s why people drive to Las Vegas from LA rather than fly. It takes an hour to drive to LAX because the light rail in LA stops a mile short of LAX–because the taxis wanted it that way. And then you have to take a taxi from McCarren to the Strip. When you’re going home, you have to do the whole thing in reverse to get back to LAX. And none of that mentions that light rail stations in Los Angeles are nowhere near where most people live.

    1. It can take you longer to get from LA to Vegas by plane than it does to just drive there–and that’s on a flight that’s just 40 minutes.

      If the Chinese want to invest in something, don’t run a train between LA and Vegas. Run a train between the light rail in LA and LAX. Then run another train between McCarren and the Vegas Strip. That’s where the bottleneck is–it’s not between LA and Vegas.

    2. The corner of Trop and LVB says otherwise. The pedestrian bridges bring in as many people as leave. On a busy weekend, those bridges are packed shoulder to shoulder with people.

      1. Those bridges are connecting casinos owned by the same group. You show me a casino that has pedestrian friendly access to another casino, and I’ll show you two casinos that are owned by the same company.

        The casinos that aren’t connected to the monorail–were casinos that rejected being connected to the monorail.

        1. Caesars and Bellagio are owned by different groups – but that intersection is the exception to the rule that you’re talking about.

          1. That’s Flamingo and LV Blvd – but some point of ped bridges going to different hotels.

        2. They weren’t when the bridges were built. Excalibur was owned by Circus Circus. Tropicana still has a different owner.

        3. Take a look at this map.


          Notice four things:

          1) The monorail stops just short of McCarren.

          2) The monorail runs down the back of the hotels–not on the Strip.

          3) The monorail passes by every casino on that side of the Strip–and most of them aren’t connected.

          4) The only hotels that are connected are all owned by the same group.

          None of that is a coincidence.

          If they finished off that last mile to McCarren, the monorail would suddenly become wildly profitable–and that’s half the bottleneck from Los Angeles. Don’t build out however many hundred miles to LA. Build the last mile from the monorail to the airport.

        4. Golden Nugget has pedestrian-friendly access to Binion’s.

          1. You’re talking about downtown?

            The Vegas Street Experience?


            That area is so old and decrepit, that area was built before Vegas was really a national draw. Those are old mistakes they learned from. That stuff was built pre-Elvis, and they’ll never make those mistakes again.

            1. It’s actually pretty cool now.

              1. It’s a lot less expensive.

                But it’s not saying much when my favorite place down there is Hennessey’s, and there’s already one in Hermosa.

                Actually, have you been the Heart Attack Grill?


                That’s a lot of fun if you’re with the right people.

                1. They’ll feed you for free if you weigh over 350 lbs!

                2. The Heart Attack Grill is awesome.

                  I suspect the owner is either Libertarian or has Libertarian leanings based on the anti-tax blurb on the menu.

                  1. And I can eat there becasue they don’t use soybean oil. Everything is fried or grilled in lard.

    3. I stayed at the rennaissance hotel by the convention center one trip bought the extended pass for the monorail (I forget if it was for a week or 3-days) and took it to the strip and back a couple of times. The monorail, while kind of cool, was such a bad way to get from point a to point b that we just said fuck it and took cabs halfway through the 2nd.

      1. It doesn’t go anywhere except the convention center. You can take buses around down there, too. I’m not saying that you can’t get around in Las Vegas, but they’re making it hard for you to do so on purpose.

        They’re not about to put in a convenient way to get from one casino group to the other on a fast and convenient monorail, that’s for sure.

        And even apart from that. Ever notice that Caesar’s is built way back from the street, so they have moving accelerated walkways to get you from the street into the casino.

        But there’s no moving walkway to get back to the street. You have to hoof it if you want to leave!

        That isn’t an oversight. And neither is the free alcohol.

    4. I have ridden in American taxis maybe half a dozen times in my life. Not until recently with the stories about Uber and co. have I come to realize what a horribly corrupt industry it is.

      They stifle innovation, monopolize markets, and deliberately make it difficult for people to move around.

      It is time for them to go.

    5. That makes sense. Many casinos I’ve seen have hilariously useless walkways and monorails that only connect parts of the casino to other parts of the same casino. The monorails are usually empty from what I’ve seen. Tomorrowland for sure.

    6. Bob Hope – Mclaren, SWA for the win.

      Or 12 guys in a cargo (drunk) bus. Either one makes me happy.

  11. Hopefully they won’t scrimp on some of the key ingredients for the concrete like they did on the Chinese HSR system, making it just Normal-Speed Rail.

    Are China’s high-speed trains heading off the rails?

  12. What about that suck-n-blow tube thing that Musk was talking about? That would totally blow the chu-chu out of the water?

    1. Upon further research, they discovered that it sucks and it blows.

      1. I didn’t think it was possible!

    2. The real problem is getting people from where they live in Los Angeles to the train station in Los Angeles and getting people from where they land in Las Vegas to the Strip.

      The flight from LAX to McCarren is 40 minutes. If a Musk Tube cut that flight time in half, it would only shave 20 minutes off the travel time. And then people would still have to get from the Musk Tube station to their hotel.

  13. Better China’s money than mine.

    Carry on.

  14. Why not a Shanghai to Vegas train that runs through the Earth’s mantle? Right-of-ways would be easier.

    1. Weesa going throughsa the plants core.
      /Jar Jar Drake

  15. But don’t expect me to go looking up recipes on Pinterest just yet.

    Men don’t use Pinterest, Scott.

    1. Huh. That’s why I don’t understand it.

  16. Victorville to Las Vegas is a little of 2 hours.

    So people are going to drive to VV park and then hop on a train to save 1/2 hour of transit time.


    1. Depends on how badly you want to start drinking 2 hours early. I think I’d rather have my car.

      1. I got an alert from Uber that they are starting in LV. I’m happy to hear it because I hated taking taxis last time.

        1. Why, Vegas is the one place that Taxis ‘work’.

          1. If by work you mean over charge, then yes.

            1. Meh, you can go pretty much anywhere for $15 or less and catch one in a few minutes at most.

              1. I was with a large group and they have laws limiting the number of passengers. Having a couple Uber XLs would have saved some coin.

                1. Just take the goddamn taxi Florida Man. Jesus Christ.

                  1. I have a visceral hate of taxis!!! I actually took a bus to get back from lunch and everyone knows only chumps take the bus!!!

                    1. Ha-hah. Florida man is a chump.

                      But seriously Uber will mean you can many places for $10 or less. And their will be even less wait time. Cool.

      2. In that case, just fly.

        It’ll still be cheaper and take about 1/4 the time to get to the airport as it will to get to VV.

    2. Also, your car will probably get broken into or stolen in Victorville.


  18. BTW, has anyone looked at their proposed route?

    Last I heard, they can’t run a train along the 15 because the grades are too steep. And any route that is theoretically possible runs through national forests and ‘sensitive dessert habitats’. The enviro nuts have killed solar power plants in the mohave to save turtles, and shit. There’s no fucking way that they’ll not oppose a major 180 mile long construction project.

    1. I’ve seen a couple of massive solar farms in the desert between LV and LA. I’m not regularly there, but I’ve been between the two a few times. Are you saying there were more plants planned that were nixed? I would believe that, for sure.

      1. Yes, and delaying and extending the cost where it didn’t ultimately prevent them.


      2. The problem was the transmission lines from the solar farms. The electricity has to get to LA somehow, but the environmentalists said no.

    2. But you forget that watermelons love trains.

    3. VGZ, It won’t happen. This is a PR stunt, nothing more.

    4. Runaway Train, never coming back

  19. Isn’t this just the monorail in Fallout: New Vegas?

  20. The California end of the line is outside of Victorville, an 80 mile drive from Los Angeles, a trip that can take 90 minutes or more, depending on traffic. In order to “save time” taking the 80-minute train to Las Vegas, Los Angeles residents would have to drive essentially a third of the way there in the first place, then transfer to a train. And the part of the trip SoCal residents would have to drive is the part with the worst traffic.

    Welcome to how western states to public train transit.

    One of the few transportation projects I voted ‘yes’ on way back in the 90s was Seattle’s light rail (big mistake). It ended costing much more than advertised, and was significantly scaled back. There are no stations any where near where I live (in any of the three neighborhoods I’ve lived in) and except for the downtown corridor (and maybe the airport), goes nowhere I need to go.

    And again, this was a project that I (a libertarian that pretty much reflexively votes ‘no’ on everything) wanted.

    1. It is just so much better to be an absolutist and not fall for the pseudo-intellectual claptrap that one is intellectually inferior if one is ideologically consistent.

  21. OT: from the Beeb http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34291648

    Are you seeking refuge in Europe? Are you in Serbia, Hungary or Croatia? Please email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.
    Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:
    WhatsApp: +44 7525 900971
    Send pictures/video to yourpics@bbc.co.uk
    Upload your pictures / video here
    Tweet: @BBC_HaveYourSay
    Send an SMS or MMS to 61124 or +44 7624 800 100
    A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.
    Or use the form below:

    1. Huh, even the Beeb is admitting there are “economic migrants”?

  22. I see the Chinese watched True Detective season 2 and decided that theUS government really would guarantee profits

    1. I hear the feds have guaranteed cost overages.

      1. Vince Vaughan convinced 10 people in the whole world as a mob boss and they were all Chinese Party Officials. It was probably the dentire pulling scene.

  23. I wouldn’t want to be the intern getting all those dick pics.

  24. Don’t worry gang, there is at least 20 years of environmental red tape in California standing in the way of this. Our stupidity is going to save China from their stupidity.

  25. 19th century transportation for a 19th century political philosophy.

  26. Oh Canada!

    No cute “Woe, Canada” headline. This is serious business.

    According to the federal agency Statistics Canada, the country’s real gross domestic product contracted 0.5 percent in the second quarter. In the first quarter, it fell 0.8 percent. U.S. GDP grew 3.7 percent in the second quarter.

    Our northern neighbor is in a recession.

    No wonder Vancouver office vacancies are at a 10-year high. Canada’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent in August. This complicates Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s efforts to keep power in an Oct. 19 election. Harper had taken credit for his stewardship of the economy.

    The big problem is falling oil prices, which are especially tied to China’s troubles but also to weak demand in other markets. This downdraft is also affecting other Canadian resource sectors.

    Huh, falling oil prices are also the reason Venezuela’s socialism is failing. Dang those falling oil prices.


  27. Well, that’s ironic. Chinese building railroads in the US.

    1. Ironic or expected? Can’t decide.

      1. Almost 150 years ago, individual Chinese were building railroads in the US.

  28. In this Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015 photo, Laila Smith, a junior at Harvard University, poses at a gate leading to Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Mass. During the registration process, students at Harvard are now allowed to indicate which pronouns they use. Forms include typical options like “he” and “she” but also gender-neutral options like “ze” or “they.” Smith filled in the pronouns “they” and “their” on the form. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Less

    Harvard isn’t the first college to embrace gender-neutral pronouns, but it’s among a wave of major institutions that are widening their policies and pronouns to acknowledge transgender students, as well as “genderqueer” students, who don’t identify as male or female.

    Once again, I’m all for this. How will government dole out the goodies unless they know these details though?


    1. “It feels really invalidating to have people make an assumption about what your gender is simply by looking at you,” said Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

      Changes at places like Harvard, Beemyn said, represent “acceleration of a trend that we have been seeing for the past few years.”

      I’m good with it. Let’s see who blinks first.

    2. “We want this to be a place that is inclusive,” Burke said, “and embracing of everybody in the community.”


      1. I identify as pure energy without any corporeal form or mass. Thanks for invalidating my existence, Burke.

    3. “Their” isn’t a pronoun. Fuck you all.

      1. It identifies as a pronoun.


          1. ‘THEIR’ IS GERUNDQUEER!

            *puts fingers in ears and starts singing Mary Had a Little Lamb*

  29. I went to Vegas with an ex. It was crap. I had more fun there playing Rainbow Six: Vegas, and that game was crap.

    1. If they made a scene-for-scene remake of Rogue Spear, I would buy back into the franchise. Although Ghost Recon was some fun, too.

    2. You might have had more fun if you’d have gone before he/she/mx/ze/they were an ex.

      1. She was an ex in the making. That trip sealed the deal.

        1. They have a tendency to do that.

        2. It is what you make of it.

          Are you not a fun guy?

        3. I learned a new term, sugarmoon. It’s like a honeymoon except with your ex. I bet a sugarmoon in Vegas could be fun.

          1. Well, it is the new porn capitol of the US.

            1. I thought that was Tampa.

  30. The history of rail and high-speed rail is the history of land boondoggles.
    That is all this is.

  31. How exciting! They should link it up with the California light rail stop in Corcoran, so I can zip down and boat Charles Manson on my way to Vegas!

  32. Best trip I ever took: I bought a new car, a brand new, shiny red Honda del Sol. Summer break came along and I didn’t have a girlfriend (I was in college) and decided I wanted to take a trip, destination unknown. I walked into my Biochem class and asked who would like to go along. The class was 80 female nursing students. I was blown away when the knockout redhead with eye popping legs that I had a huge crush on accepted the invitation. Apparently her parents were out of the country that summer and she had nothing else to do.

    We drove down to New Orleans then got onto US 90 and drove the coast all the way to Alligator Alley, then down to the Keys. We stayed the night in Ocean Springs, Destin, Panacea, Crystal River, Cape Coral and three nights in the Keys. We screwed like rabbits, got tanned as hell, and had the time of our lives. We swam with dolphins, manatees, did some scuba diving, salt water fishing, and found some really cool lighthouses and other attractions. The whole trip was unplanned. We went where we wanted when we wanted and did whatever we wanted. We never set foot in a casino. We did however lay on the beach one night near one in MS and watch the fireworks show that one was putting on.

    Vegas who?

    1. Panacea? Where in the world did you stay in Panacea?

      1. Some little mom and pop place on the beach. It had little cabins. It was on the beach somewhere between Panacea and uh…(looks at map)… Carrabelle. My brother told me recently that the place is abandoned now.

    2. I worked a cash register during summer break. Check your privilege, shitlord.

      1. Summer break… what’s that?

      2. If it makes you feel any better I would have taken you had I had the opportunity.

    3. We screwed like rabbits, got tanned as hell

      A red head, got tanned as hell.

        1. I know… they’re so very rare.

          1. Well, I got tanned as hell. She turned..uh…I don’t know how to describe the color. The only comparison I can think of is unflattering: like an old desiccated orange? Her freckles sure popped out and she sure as hell wasn’t desiccated. I found her on Facebook a while back and occasionally look at her page. She is some kind of PR person in New Orleans these days. Her slim figure is long gone though. Married to the guy she was broken up with back then and with a couple of kids. She got fat.

            Brett got me curious so I looked around a bit. I think this is the place: Google Earth photo ‘Unhinged’ at 29 degrees 51 minutes 11.01 seconds N and 84 degrees 38 minutes 12.46 seconds W.

            It is hard to tell. I don’t remember it looking just like that but it was almost 30 years ago.

            1. Oh, and it isn’t in Panacea. It is just west of Panacea. More like Carrabelle or Lanark Village. Whatever.

  33. I live in SF. In a rare moment of sanity, SF voters didn’t give the Yorks a new sandbox for their football team, they passed it on to the good folks of Santa Clara.
    Well, if the CA voters can get China to spring for this boondoggle, I’m all for it.

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  35. As for me it is quite strange to see China want to invest so much money in this railway. I can totally agree that financial problems in the country can cause definite problems with investments of such level, so the company making a project should be careful. However, if China is so determined in its plans, it can mean that there is a definite strategy for such expensive project. When the extra source of investment is necessary, I can recommend North’n’Loans company as a good and responsible service providing an access to great variety of lenders.

  36. Great news. The railway and high speed train from China are built in US. Really love that. As the most important material testing equipment vendor of Chinese railway group, we believe that no one can stop this.

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