When SNCF built the first TGV line, it did not have funding to complete the full line from Paris to Lyon. Instead, it built two thirds of the line’s length, with the remaining third done on legacy track at reduced speed. The travel time was 4 hours; when the full line was completed a few years later, it was reduced to 2. The one-seat ride remains the TGV’s current operating model, to the point that one unelectrified branch got direct service with a diesel locomotive attached to the trains at the end, and was only electrified recently.
In Japan, transfers are more common, because of the different track gauges. At the outer ends of the Shinkansen, it is common for people to transfer to a legacy express train at the northern end of the line, though on two branches JR East built two Mini-Shinkansen lines, regauging or dual-gauging legacy track to make TGV-style through-running possible. In Germany, the entire system is built on transfers, typically timed between two high-speed trains.
I mention this because the California HSR activists are talking about the possibility of transfers as an initial phase. Some politicians occasionally hint about forced transfers at San Jose, even though it is relatively easy (in fact, planned) to electrify Caltrain and run trains through to San Francisco, but more intriguing is Clem Tillier and Richard Mlynarik’s proposal about running to Livermore first:
This is predicated on prioritizing the San Francisco to Los Angeles connection. It has nothing to do with Sacramento or the East Bay… those are just the cherry on top. Focus on the cake, not the cherry.
LA – Livermore HSR 2:06
Transfer in Livermore 0:10
Livermore – SF Embarcadero BART 0:57
TOTAL SF-LA via Altamont/Livermore BART 3:13
LA – Gilroy HSR 1:57
Transfer in Gilroy 0:10
Gilroy – SF 4th & King by Caltrain 2:00
TOTAL SF-LA via Pacheco/Gilroy Caltrain 4:07
It’s simply not a contest. Even for San Jose, LA – SJ downtown times would be approximately equivalent via Livermore BART once BART to SJ is built. So let me reiterate: No other alternative, least of all Pacheco, provides such a “Phase Zero” access to SF.
The one possible problem: Livermore’s quality of service will be low after BART goes there. From their 1982 opening until 1985, the Tohoku and Joetsu Shinkansen only served Omiya, located 30 km north of central Tokyo; however, Omiya was already connected to Tokyo by multiple high-capacity rapid transit lines, and an additional line was built at the same time as mitigation for the line’s construction impacts.