Nut and fruit grove farmers in California, USA, are the latest group to protest a planned high-speed train that will cut through the centre of the state, 200km from Madera to Bakersfield. Farm groups say they are in the dark about the details of planned lines, but they are worried about new proposals that would splice century-old family farms with complex irrigation systems. Earlier proposals would have used existing lines but the town of Hanford in particular, famous for its 123-year-old rail history, which it has turned into a tourist commodity, resisted. The rail authority says environmental studies will look closely at the impact on farms.
The rail authority is rushing to push through its plans in order to obtain federal credit to start construction. New federal funding is available because other states returned funds for high speed rail lines.
Public transport and California residents have not been close friends over the years, with the car as king in the western USA, but the state has been trying to shift this with its plans for a network of bullet train lines. The flat Central Valley is the starting point, in part because it would cost less to build there. Joblessness in the Central Valley region is well above that in the rest of the state and the new line would create jobs, especially in construction, plus link the agricultural area south of Fresno to other regions, with an expected positive impact on the depressed regional economy.