Terrorists Will Love California’s High Speed Rail

Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters 19 Comments


My following column ran in the NORTH COUNTY TIMES on 11 February


Terrorists Will Love California’s High Speed Rail
11 February, 2010

by Richard Rider Phone: 858-530-3027 Email: RRider@san.rr.com

On behalf of terrorists everywhere, let me say that high speed rail (HSR) is a Godsend to the Jihad (or whatever cause lights their fire).

A speeding “bullet train” will be like a plane flying at ground level at (supposedly) 220 MPH. At that velocity, if the train left the blown-up track, it would be like a plane coming down.

Most passengers would likely be killed. Those that weren’t killed would probably wish they HAD been killed. The graphic pictures of the horribly maimed and dead would be exactly what the terrorists long for.

Terrorists will take their cue from the French and Russian partisans in WWII who blew up NAZI trains with great success. Planes are hard to bring down — not so for trains.

With HSR, all a terrorist needs to do is properly place a relatively small explosive charge on the track. As a HSR bullet train comes flying up to the spot, the terrorist remotely detonates the explosive.

The best part for terrorists is that one doesn’t even have to be a suicide bomber. Just set the charge, detonate it, and drive away for another bombing later.

One rebuttal I’ve heard from HSR proponents is that terrorists are interested in planes only as missiles they can dive into buildings. But one has to wonder if such Pollyannas have been watching the news since 2001. Does “shoe bomber” or “underpants on fire” ring a bell?

But put that aside. The 9/11 attacks cost the bad guys 20 men. How many must die to blow up a HSR train track? Zero.

A California “bullet train” will carry 950 when fully loaded. Presumably that full load is the terrorists’ target.

So, assuming the bad guys want to repeat the casualties of 9/11 — How many HSR trains much be demolished to kill the same number of people as 9/11?


With no loss of life to the terrorists.

Most important, HSR is an EASY train to wreck compared to airplanes. A HSR derailment requires minimal explosives, and recycles the terrorist. And the terrorists get to pick the worst spot to plant the explosives — perhaps just before the speeding train reaches a curve, or a bridge over a river or valley.

Sure, terrorists are willing to die for their cause. But any terrorist (and their bosses) would rather they cause several catastrophes before finally getting killed or caught.

One such disastrous bombing will be the effective end of California’s “high speed” rail. For safety purposes, “bullet train” traffic will have to be slowed to 60-70 MPH to reduce casualties from such derailings. HSR train passenger traffic will plummet, and this useless financial choo-choo will hang around our necks for decades.

The terrorists would never get three filled HSR trains to blow up at 200 MPH speed — unless they coordinated the attacks at the same time (sound familiar?). After the fatal attack(s), there would be no more HSR in CA. Just rail. Very, VERY expensive rail.



Comments 19

  1. Post
  2. Richard,
    Thank you for posting your cautionary thoughts regarding terrorists and a high speed, high cost rail system in California. The fact that high speed rail has operated without your feared violent interruption in France, Japan, China, and other countries in the world is clearly not a material fact to you. Okeey Dokeey. Actual current and historical facts are not germain to your conversation… I get it.

    Again, I thank you for expressing your concerns. Have you heard about the possible brain tumor risks from cell phone usage??? OMG!!!

  3. Post

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Jerome — the common rebuttal of an ostrich whose head is buried deep in the sand (or elsewhere).

    According to your “reasoning,” we were right to ignore the risks of box cutters prior to 9/11. After all, how many box cutter plane crashes had occurred before then — let alone intentional crashes into skyscrapers? I bet you would have made fun of that threat as well.

    I noticed you failed to mention Spain, where 200 people died in the bombing of a train standing still. Furthermore you might check your history of train track attacks during wars (especially in France) — and we ARE at war.

    Japan, China and France are not at war. We are at war in at least two countries, and have troops stationed in over 100 more.

    So which of us is ignoring historical facts?

  4. When our decision to not build a infrastructure system is based solely on the reasoning that it will attract a terrorist attack, is ridiculous. Isn’t this basically letting the terrorists win? The whole objective behind terrorism is to make people live in fear. We can’t just say, “Nope sorry can’t build this bridge, stadium, road, airport, railroad, building, house, mall, etc…, because it will attract terrorists.” That’s ridiculous. Terrorists are always going to be out there.

    Building an HSR system is going to lead to more good than bad. The fact is, not building the system due to this reasoning goes against what all Americans strive for everyday….a better way of life.

    9/11 happened. It was tragic. We weren’t prepared, but we learn from it. Build the HSR system, maintain security and go on living your lives.

    “Build it and they will come…” referring to the passengers, not terrorists. If a terrorist attack somehow occurs, people will still ride the train. We still fly don’t we?. Europeans still ride trains, don’t they? Are we that much different?

  5. Post

    Sigh. Jeff, we can pretty much protect planes. We CANNOT protect high speed rail. It’s too vulnerable a target the entire length of its run.

    As a result, people will fly rather than use HSR after such an attack. But it really doesn’t matter, as “the public” will demand that HSR run at a safer speed — say, 70 MPH. That’s just rail — a gigantic mistake we’ll pay for for decades.

  6. Post

    Jeff, you present a false choice — infrastructure or no infrastructure.

    The key is to develop a SAFE infrastructure. Roads are lousy terrorist targets, and are what 98% of Americans use to get around locally. Planes work great for longer trips that need to be made quickly.

    We need roads. We don’t need HSR.

  7. First off, “We need roads.” Not exactly. Have you driven your car lately in say SF or LA? Was it a pleasent drive? Or were there too many cars on the road? Thought so.

    We don’t need new roads. We need to rebuild and maintain the existing ones while relieving them of congestion. The population isn’t getting smaller. And the places that do need “new” roads, are in the urban areas…have you seen much room to build new road? Didn’t think so.

    Oh yeah, there has been that talk about the strange idea of global warming and the environmental issues cars have…probably not important huh? Rubbish, right?

    Second. Yes we can for that matter protect our planes. And then you basically said earlier that it will only take one terrorist attack on HSR to stop people from riding. But, remember that whole 9/11 thing? And again, we still fly. We protect our planes by having better security and personnel. We can protect our HSR by doing the same. Do some research on rail detection systems and what not.

    Third, Lets look at the most populated HSR system in the world…yes that’s right the Shinkansen (in Japan). Zero fatalities in over 3 decades. Not too bad. Their security seems to be doing pretty well…must be magic… or wait, enhanced security and safety measures? No that’s not it.

    Fourth, SF to LA on CA HSR will only be 2 1/2 hours (give or take a few minutes after final design is complete). That doesn’t seem like a very long time to me.

    Finally, I understand you are against HSR. But come up with a better argument than the scary terrorists. Tell me it will cost more (it won’t). Tell me it will take longer (not by much if not at all). Tell me something that makes sense.

    Or don’t tell me at all.

    Oh ya by the way…the “public” does and will ride the HSR. I know I voted. Pretty sure most of California did to.

  8. Just to clarify when I mean cost…I mean it will cost relatively the same in (2012) as it would before to build the HSR system when the business plan came out in (2008)….seems to be the argument lately.

    Not to mention the other “costs” other than money in the long run.

  9. Jeff, we need more and better roads, but not to get from SD to SF/SAC. We nave an excellent bus service down at Lindbergh Field to get us there and back.

    I do day trips to SAC. I get to the airport at 7 AM, catch the bus (a.k.a. Southwest Airlines), get to my 10 AM meeting. It’s over 2-3 PM, I’m back on my bus by 4 Pm, and home for dinner at 6:30 PM.

    No way HSR will be able to do that, yet my trips are the ones HSR is counting in their “ridership.” HSR from SD will be start, stop, start, stop — and will likely include a train change in LA.

  10. The good news is that the “business plan” for SD HSR depends on the PROFITS from the LA-SF HSR run. No passenger train in America makes a profit, let alone the billions needed for the SD-LA HSR spur.

    BTW, are the nonexistant “profits” going to pay off the HSR bonds? Don’t make me laugh (harder).

    It’s all nonsense, and you bought it, Jeff. Sadly, so did many others.

    If you are so sure it will work out, how about a wager. I’m looking for suckers to accept my REAL, escrowed $10,000 wager on the projections of construction cost, travel time, ticket price and profits of this boondoggle. I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but no takers.

    You willing to put your money where your mouth is? I am, Jeff — I AM serious about this!

  11. HSR will do nothing to improve road congestion. There is little congestion on the rural roads, and the urban congestion will not be helped by HSR.

    The one thing rail has done for road congestion is gobble up road funding — in particular, the gas excise tax. We spend very little on roads in this state, but we have spent a fortune on light rail that handles 2% of the trips in urban areas.

  12. Yes, Californians voted for rail. The voters were as gullible as you — believing the HSR projections (paid for my those who will profit from building the HSR system) that encouraged the passage of the bonds.

    Gee, Jeff have you noticed lately that the projections were changed?
    The $50 HSR ticket from LA to SF has been bumped up a tad — to $105. And the ridership projections have have essentially been cut in half. And they are still pipe-dreams!

  13. Jeff, you point to Japan’s HSR lack of terrorist fatalities, and claim that proves our HSR will be just as safe.

    Following that “logic,” Japan’s lack of terrorist-commandeered airliners crashing into Tokyo skyscrapers is proof that we need no heightened security measures to protect US airlines from such an improbable attack.

    We ain’t Japan, my friend. We are the self-appointed world’s policeman — hated throughout the globe. We are at the top of the terrorist targets in the modern Western world. Build HSR, and odds are the terrorists will come.

  14. Jeff, did you know that our CA commuter rail systems create more pollution and use more energy per PASSENGER MILE than cars? Our rail is efficient for a couple hours a day during commutes when the trolleys are relatively full, but wastes energy like crazy while running 89%-90% empty the rest of the time.

  15. We still flew after 9/11 for TWO reasons:

    1. It’s the only practical option for long distance traveling.

    2. Security was such that the threat was minimized. Indeed, I flew two weeks after 9/11 and felt that the security improvements made my trip safer than ever.

    Neither is true with HSR.

    Planes are a ready substitute for HSR — indeed, are usually a better choice from the get-go.

    Unlike planes, there is no way to protect HSR rail from a pound of C-4 and a remote detonator on the track. Once that becomes apparent, HSR loses both it’s ridership and it’s speed.

  16. RR! Well, what a piece of one-sided nonsense.

    Obviously there ARE ways to prevent trains from driving over damaged areas, and ways to prevent bombs.

    If you say there aren’t, why aren’t you saying the same about nuclear reactors, coal ash sludge ponds, coal burners, chemical factories etc. all of which have far more potential for destruction?

    Flying is obviously not the only option, not even the best option, soon not even an option, as we finally figure out climate catastrophe won’t allow such incredibly wasteful practices.

    Most important, rail is its own protection against terrorists. Terrorists hate us because of our foreign policy—treating Islamic and Arab countries like colonies because they have oil; the US military acting as enforcer for the gangstery actions of multinational corporations who collectively kill millions of people every year. Using less oil means stopping that criminal misbehavior. Thus, no terrorists.

    It’s always good to consider all sides before making dumb arguments against intelligent design.

  17. Speaking of one sided nonsense. Right, climate catastrophe is going to make us all stop flying. Hey, J4 Zonie, did you know that “gas” emissions from cows have more of an impact on the atmosphere than airplane “pollutants”? We’d better kill all the cows before we all die. Dumb is as dumb does.

  18. The science about the relative effects of cow gas and fossil transportation is new, unsettled and debatable. The science about climate catastrophe being real, happening, and extremely dangerous is none of those. It is as close to established fact as almost anything in science, and means we should be doing both–reducing our use of fossil fuels in transport AND dramatically reducing the amount of meat we eat and the way we raise it (what cows eat has a lot to do with their gas production–grass good, grain bad).

    We also (just for completeness here) need to stop burning things for fuel. Coal has to go first, oil and gas right behind, all to be replaced with efficiency, solar, wind, relocalization, and local organic permaculture. We also need to reforest the world. The fact of climate catastrophe is supported by 150 years of peer-reviewed, overwhelming majority science that is ever more certain, ever more unanimous and ever more unassailable; those solutions are the only main practical ones available. (Smaller local amounts of tidal power, geothermal etc. will also be useful, as will all types of rail (used to capacity of course. Nothing like a good straw person argument, eh RR?), electric vehicles as storage of PV/wind power in a smart grid, etc… And solar includes passive heating and cooling, water heating, solar thermal, etc. not just PV.

    Environmentalists and people on the left have been trying to do all that for decades; if conservatives hadn’t stopped progress with ignorant arguments like this anti-rail screed, drill idiot drill chant, and this pointless and ignorant cow thing we would now need no foreign oil, would not have been attacked in 2001, would not have invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, would not be supporting brutal oppression in Nigeria, Suadi Arabia and lots of other places. Please stop.

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