Mark Adomanis made a fan of me when he referred (during an online interview rating the Russia bloggers by La Russophobe) to Paul Goble as a “whore” whose methodology is “to studiously dig through rags like Novaya Gazeta, find the most unhinged anti-Putin rants he can lay his hands on, translate them, and then print them as “authoritative” sources.” Another such prevaricating prostitute is La Russophobe’s sometime “translator” and full-time chucklehead, Dave Essel.
Obviously, Russophobes don’t want to give positive press to any Russian initiative, and the notion that it might be in American foreign policy interests to support and cultivate a cooperative relationship with Russia is received with the same welcome as a fart in an elevator. But the apparently deliberate distortions in this piece make it the electronic equivalent of a pretzel. Let’s take a look at Essel’s smug assertions one at a time, shall we?
Let’s start with the juvenile assumption that the new SAPSAN train is “not that fast”, being apparently capable of only 129 kph. Mathematician Essel arrived at this conclusion by factoring the variable of distance covered (1100 kilometers) against time elapsed (8 hours 25 minutes). This supposes that not only is the train incapable of going faster than 129 kph, but that it accelerates instantly to that speed upon closing its doors in St Petersburg and never slows for any reason until it gets to Nizhny Novgorod. He closes with the smirking observation that real high-speed trains can do 300 kph.
In fact, the SAPSAN’s top operating speed is 217 mph (349 kph), and during tests it achieved 255 mph (410 kph). Various factors may make it unwise to have the throttle all the way open (figuratively speaking, as SAPSAN has no locomotive, and passengers sit in the front car as well), such as weather, entering or leaving a station and so on, but the SAPSAN achieved a very respectable 250 kph on its initial passenger run, and 281 kph during trials on Russian rails. Want more explanation? Sure. From the NYT reference I already cited, “Pulling out of the St. Petersburg station on the test run, the Russian conductor kept the Sapsan throttled back at a modest 90 miles an hour as it rattled over older track in the city, making the typical clickety-clack noise of a train. High-speed rails are welded together and silent. It was like driving a new Porsche over a rutted road. Out on refurbished track, the train accelerated to 150 miles an hour, the threshold until additional track improvements are made.”
Had enough of Dave Essel’s fantasy island bullshit yet? No? Good; let’s move on. Mr. Essel’s “curiosity was sparked” by his observation that the joint venture with Seimens sounded more like a purchase contract, and his detective skills were speedily rewarded! All Russia is contributing is money!!
So what? If you go back to my first train reference, you’ll note Siemens views its contract with Russia as an opportunity to demonstrate what it could do…..in America. Yes, American “high speed rail” – currently mulling an increase in top speed to 220 mph – is a national embarrassment, and Siemens is looking to displace the government-subsidized AMTRAK. If and when it does, against such stiff competition as SNCF of France and JR Central of Japan, what do you suppose will be the American national contribution to the joint venture? That’s right – money. Obviously, Japan and France already know a considerable amount about building high-speed trains, and if AMTRAK was America’s contribution, just get out of the way. You might get to paint little flags on the doors, though – maybe an eagle or two.
Moving right along, we learn that Dave Essel is shocked, shocked!!! to discover that Russia is purchasing rails from Japan. Can’t Russia even make proper rails? After all, don’t they have, like, a huge steel industry or something? Why, yes, they do. Doesn’t America have a huge steel industry as well? Yes? Then why is America the world’s fourth-biggest importer of steel (after China, South Korea and Germany)? Can’t Americans even make steel? Look; a couple of years ago the U.S. imported $11 Billion worth of steel from BRIC countries, including Russia.
It’s called trade, Dave. Countries do it all the time. This isn’t hard stuff, you should know it, especially since your country ran a trade deficit last year of better than $380 Billion, most of which was stuff Americans are perfectly capable of making for themselves. As your mistress is fond of saying; ouch, ouch, ouch.
Getting progressively crazier, Essel goes on to point out that tickets for the high-speed trains are much more expensive than regular trains, putting them out of reach of “plain folks”, and cites an article reporting that some of these “plain folks” throw things at the SAPSAN, thus proving the proletariat hates it. This is ridiculous; SAPSAN carried 77,000 passengers in its first month. Know why the tickets are more expensive than regular train tickets, Dave? Because high-speed rail is designed to compete with….air travel. Going back once again to the NYT reference, “In other countries, high-speed trains have roundly beaten planes on price, overall travel time and convenience at ranges up to 600 miles between major cities. After high-speed trains between Paris and Lyons became well established, for example, commercial flights all but disappeared. And in the first year of operation, a Madrid-to-Barcelona high-speed link cut the air travel market about 50 percent.” SAPSAN can carry about 100 more passengers than a Boeing 747.
“The €630 million spent on buying the trains from Siemens would have gone a long way towards upgrading Russian train production.” Yes, it might have. It would also have allowed you to go on mocking Russia’s antiquated rail service, which I suspect is much more on your mind than any real concern for Russian technological advancement.
“Due to lack of safety procedures along Russia’s railway tracks, since December 2009 the trains have already killed 5 people in 5 separate incidents.” Yes, unfortunately, train accidents happen even in countries that pay attention to safety.
Overall, a smug, know-it-all “analysis” from a Russophobe whose primary reference appears to have been – Russian Wikipedia. Nice try, Dave. A person who says stupid things isn’t necessarily a stupid person. But that’s the way to bet.