Last November, the penny-stock company Las Vegas Railway Express announced an ambitious, privately financed plan to start a party train with Las Vegas-to-Los Angeles service, with the inaugural trek set for New Year’s Eve. That prospect left the station months ago, unfulfilled.
Last week, as reported by the Review-Journal’s Tim O’Reiley, the company’s annual report showed the project pushed back to at least late 2014. The Vegas-to-L.A. project, Mr. O’Reiley noted, had myriad issues, from widely varied cost projections (now pegged at $80 million) to no trackage agreements and lack of funds to renovate cars — if those cars have actually been purchased, which also isn’t clear.
These problems show just how difficult it is to make such a project go, and relatively speaking, this is a modestly priced effort. If Las Vegas Railway Express can’t make a go of it with hugely populated Los Angeles as a hub, how then can the proposed XpressWest high-speed rail project from Las Vegas to Victorville, Calif., possibly succeed? That project hinges on approval of a $5.5 billion federal loan.
Does Nevada need that money, and the jobs it would bring? Absolutely. But XpressWest’s negatives outweigh its positives. As the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, stated in an analysis challenging XpressWest’s ridership and revenue projections, “there appears to be little or no prospect for the Victorville-to-Las Vegas train to generate sufficient fares and commercial revenues” to repay a federal loan.
Unlike Las Vegas Railway Express, that could leave taxpayers on the hook — an untenable result and a ride no one should be forced to take.