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French Rail Company Leaves California for ‘Less Dysfunctional’ North Africa

Anastasia Boushee
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A French railroad company had planned to help California build a high-speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles but chose to leave the state to pursue projects in North Africa, claiming that the war-torn area was “less politically dysfunctional” than California.

According to a new report, the Société nationale des chemins de fer français (SNCF) left for North Africa in 2011. The bullet train that the company proceeded to build in Morocco started service in 2018.


In a lengthy news story about how California’s “bullet train” failed, the New York Times noted that “the state was warned repeatedly that its plans were too complex.”

The outlet also noted that SNCF’s recommendations for a direct route out of Los Angeles and a focus on transporting people between Los Angeles and San Francisco were cast aside, according to Dan McNamara, a career project manager for SNCF.

“There were so many things that went wrong,” said McNamara. “SNCF was very angry. They told the state they were leaving for North Africa, which was less politically dysfunctional. They went to Morocco and helped them build a rail system.”

“Now, as the nation embarks on a historic, $1 trillion infrastructure building spree, the tortured effort to build the country’s first high-speed rail system is a case study in how ambitious public works projects can become perilously encumbered by political compromise, unrealistic cost estimates, flawed engineering and a determination to persist on projects that have become, like the crippled financial institutions of 2008, too big to fail,” the New York Times noted in their report.

Despite a desire from former Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to see the railroad built, as well as significant investments from both the Obama administration and the Biden administration into its construction, the railroad project was ultimately canceled by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) upon taking office. In ending the project, the Democrat governor said it would “cost too much” and “take too long.”


When it was clear that the project would not be continuing, former President Donald Trump attempted to make the state pay back the $1 billion spent by federal taxpayers on its construction. Newsom refused to return the money.

Instead, President Joe Biden and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg invested even more money into the state for railroad construction. Ignoring the amount of money that had been wasted on the original project, the Biden administration hoped that the additional funds would be spent to build a high-speed rail between sparsely-populated rural cities in California’s Central Valley.

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