The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Thursday, 10 April 2014 11:59cat

Texas High Speed Rail Line Receives Important Endorsement

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The Texas Central Railway will take 90 minutes to travel from Dallas to Houston The Texas Central Railway will take 90 minutes to travel from Dallas to Houston JR Central

The potential high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston, Texas received a major political endorsement last week from the Mayors of Houston, Dallas, and Forth Worth. The three mayors expressed their support for the proposed bullet train that would take 90 minutes to travel between the two cities. Although Texas Central Railway, a private, for-profit Texas company, will pay for the entire project with private funds and not rely on government subsidies, government cooperation and innovation throughout the planning phase could go a long way towards making the train line successful.

If completed, the Texas Central Railway bullet train would be the first privately funded high-speed rail system in the country. After examining 97 city pairs around the country, the company has decided that Dallas and Houston are the best cities to build this system for.  The two cities are the ideal distance from each other, their economies are strong, and the terrain between them is flat without any need to build tunnels along the line. Texas Central Railway is currently performing an environmental impact study to determine the best route and terminal locations. The study is expected to take two to three years.

Once the environmental impact study has been completed, Texas Central Railway plans on beginning construction phase of the project.  It is expected to take four to five years to build the tracks and terminals. Although Texas Central Railway has not released any details about the project's cost or investors, estimates range from $10 to $12 billion. Texas Central Railway President Robert Eckels has also insisted that secure funding is in place. It is worth noting that only two bullet train systems in the world are profitable. The Tokyo-to-Osaka line in Japan and the Paris-to-Lyon line in France are profitable in part due to the lower construction costs to build the system and the denser populations that rely on public transportation. Texas Central Railway believes that they came be profitable on train fares alone. They point to the lack of government input as a way to lower construction and overall costs.

Texas Central Railway will partner with Japan Railway Company throughout the planning and construction phases of the project. The Japanese company will not make any financial investments, but they will provide intellectual property and the operating system for the trains. The bullet trains owned by Japan Railway Company have had zero fatal accidents in 50 years and have an annual cumulative delay of 36 seconds per train (the system operates 323 trips per day). Texas Central Railway is hoping that the reliability of the train will make it preferable to driving or flying between the two cities. They plan on having 24 trips per day between Houston and Dallas, including a train every 30 minutes during peak times. Each train will be able to hold 450 passengers, and riders who book their tickets in advance will receive a discount. The ticket prices will be comparable to airfare.

The rail line will use the Japanese made N700-I high-speed rail system used by Japan Central Railway. The N700 system has been in service since 2007, and the trains can reach speeds over 200 miles per hour. The N700-I is a special export version of the N700 trains being used in Japan. They normally operate with 8 cars, but they can run with anywhere between 6 and 16 cars depending on the passenger demand.

There has been a strong push to extend the line from Dallas to Fort Worth. Texas Central Railway has refused to pay for this portion of the line because construction is much more expensive when building a shorter line in an urban area.  It is expected to cost $2 billion to build the extension. An environmental impact study is underway for the extension, and many residents have pointed to other public-private combinations that have worked in the state as evidence that the government and Texas Central Railway can work something out to pay for the line. The ride between Dallas and Fort Worth would take 20 minutes, and some believe it would be a popular way for sports fans to travel to Cowboys Stadium and Rangers Ballpark.

If everything runs smoothly during the rest of the planning phase and during construction, the bullet train connecting Dallas to Houston will be operational by 2021.

Sources: Dallas NewsYour Houston News

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