May 17, 2020

Opposition mounts over California high-speed rail plan

Supply Chain Digital
Freight rail
U.S. High Speed Rail
Freddie Pierce
2 min
U.S. high-speed rail hopes could hinge on California, where there's plenty of bullet train opposition
United States President Barack Obama has made it clear that one of his goals while in office is to start laying the foundation for a U.S. high-speed ra...

United States President Barack Obama has made it clear that one of his goals while in office is to start laying the foundation for a U.S. high-speed rail network.

Much of the debate has centered on California, where there is hope that a high-speed rail line can connect Los Angeles in Southern California and San Francisco in Northern California.

The proposal of a bullet train system has many supporters, as it would make West Coast travel a lot easier. Don’t count California journalist Colleen O’Connor among them, however.

O’Connor recently listed eight reasons why a high-speed rail network in California is doomed for failure. Included in her points is the lack of funds for the operation. Originally, the cost estimate of a West Coast bullet train line was at $45 billion, but that has already increased to $60 billion, and not a single track has been laid.


California state treasurer Bill Lockyer expressed his doubts that sufficient funding will ever materialize, O’Connor noted in a report by the California Watch. “I’m not sure the economics work out,” Lockyer was quoted as saying. A state budget crisis only adds to the doubt.


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A recent study conducted by UC Berkeley found that assumptions of profitability in a California high-speed rail line were suspect at best, concluding that “the profitability of the proposed high-speed rail system have very large error bounds.”

Even one of the smaller obstacles that the state would need to overcome in order to build the rail line is causing problems. Central Valley farmers are opposing the construction of the high-speed rail line, which would cut through much of the open space used in Central California for farming, according to the Examiner.

You can read O’Connor’s full opposition to the California high-speed rail plan here. The debate is far from over, but it doesn’t look like construction of the bullet train line will be happening any time soon.

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Jun 21, 2021

Elon Musk's Boring Co. planning wider tunnels for freight

2 min
Elon Musk’s tunnelling firm plans underground freight tunnels with shipping containers moved on “battery-powered freight carriers”, according to reports

Elon Musk’s drilling outfit The Boring Company could be shifting its focus towards subterranean freight and logistics solutions, according to reports. 

A Boring Co. pitch deck seen and shared by Bloomberg depicts plans to construct wider tunnels designed to accommodate shipping containers. 

Founded by Tesla CEO Musk in 2016, the company initially stated its mission was to offer safer, faster point-to-point transport for people, particularly in cities plagued by traffic congestion. It also planned longer tunnels to ferry passengers between popular destinations across the US. 

The Boring Co. completed its first commercial project earlier this year in April. The 1.7m tunnel system is designed to move professionals between convention centres in Las Vegas using Tesla EVs. It says the Las Vegas Convention Centre Loop can cut travel time between venues from 45 minutes to just two. 


Boring Co.'s new freight tunnels

The Boring Co.'s new tunnel designs would allow freight to be transported on purpose built platforms, labelled as “battery-powered freight carriers”. The document shows that, though the containers could technically fit within its current 12-foot tunnels, wider tunnels would be more efficient. Designs for a new tunnel, 21 feet in diameter, show that they can comfortably accommodate two containers side-by-side, with a one-foot gap between them.

The Boring Co.’s new drilling machine, dubbed Prufrock, can tunnel at a rate of one mile per week, which is six times faster than its previous machine, and is designed to ‘porpoise’ - mimicking the marine animal by ‘diving’ below ground and reemerging once the tunnel is complete. 

Tesla’s supply chain woes 

Tesla is facing its own supply chain and logistic issues. The EV manufacturer has raised the price of its vehicles, with CEO Musk confirming the incremental hike was a result of “major supply chain pressure”. Musk replied to a disgruntled Twitter user, confused as to why prices were rising while features were being removed from the cars, saying the “raw materials especially” were a big issue. 

Elon Musk Tweet

Car manufacturing continues to be one of the industries hit hardest by a global shortage in semiconductor chips. While China’s chip manufacturing levels hit an all-time high in May, and the US is proposing a 25% tax credit for chip manufacturers, demand still outstrips supply. Automakers including Volkswagen and Audi have again said they expect reduced vehicle output in the next quarter due to a lack of semiconductors, with more factory downtime likely

Top Image credit: The Boring Company / @boringcompany

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