High Speed Rail to Las Vegas to Break Ground in Mid-2017

High Speed Rail to Las Vegas to Break Ground in Mid-2017 :According to Canyon News, a Los Angeles County weekly newspaper based in Beverly Hills, XpressWest, the company franchised to build a High Speed Rail (HSR) line linking Las Vegas and Los Angeles (the “Southwest Rail Network”), now plans to break ground in mid-2017.

Construction was originally expected to start in 2016, but in June 2016 the franchise released a statement explaining that it had terminated the partnership with China Railway International (CRI): “the decision to terminate the relationship was based primarily upon difficulties associated with timely performance and CRI’s challenges in obtaining required authority to proceed with required development activities.”

At the time Xinhua, the Chinese government’s news agency, cited a CRI manager as stating that the move was “precipitate” and “irresponsible” and the Chinese side would seek to defend its interests.

XpressWest Terminates Chinese Collaboration on High Speed Rail Project

In September 2015 XpressWest and CRI had commenced joint venture activities, with CRI selected to assist develop, finance, build and potentially operate the rail project connecting Las Vegas in Nevada to Los Angeles in California with stations in Las Vegas, Victorville, Palmdale and service throughout to Los Angeles.

In November 2015 the Nevada High Speed Rail Authority approved XpressWest’s proposal to transport rail passengers from Las Vegas to Southern California via Victorville and Palmdale.

After termination of the partnership with CRI XpressWest was forced to push back the date for construction of the first leg to “early 2017”. Now, the date has reportedly been pushed slightly further back to “mid-2017”.

According to a study released in March 2017 by the High Desert Corridor (HDC) Joint Power Authority (JPA), based in San Bernardino, by 2029 the HSR system would transport almost 10 million passengers annually and generate over $1 billion in revenue.

The High Desert Corridor began as a proposed highway project connecting the counties of Los Angeles and San Bernardino; however, through the leadership of the HDC Joint Powers Authority together with Metro, SANBAG and Caltrans, the HDC has evolved into a proposed multipurpose corridor that includes the HSR connection.

The environmental clearance (CEQA and NEPA) for the HDC project was completed and certified in June 2016, with the project now being considered “shovel ready” by the Joint Power Authority.

The Investment Grade Ridership & Revenue Forecasts study, produced by transport sector independent consultancy Steer Davies Gleave, forecasted the potential ridership and revenue for HSR through the corridor, generated by direct services between Las Vegas and Burbank/Los Angeles/Anaheim, and serving destinations in Northern California via a connection with California High Speed Rail (CaHSR) trains at Palmdale.

With its Southern California station initially in Victorville, California, fully electric high speed trains would make the trip along the I-15 corridor to Las Vegas at speeds in excess of 240 Km/h with trains leaving every 20’ during peak travel times. The train technology and systems will be fully interoperable with the California High Speed Rail system allowing for future high speed service into Burbank and Los Angeles.

The XpressWest Website states: “Because visitor trends and demographics clearly indicate the ‘Las Vegas EXPERIENCE’ cannot start early enough, XpressWest will be more than just a mode of travel. It will extend the Las Vegas EXPERIENCE into California through innovative concepts such as hotel check-in services, dinner and show reservations, and multiple entertainment options all on board the train.”

“The ‘Las Vegas EXPERIENCE’ cannot start early enough”

According to Forbes Donald Trump’s business partner Phil Ruffin could play a significant role in securing a Federal loan of over $5 billion for the HSR project, with the train stopping “about three miles away” from the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas and the planned new casino.

Trump And Billionaire Ruffin Discussed Vegas Rail Project That Could Benefit Them Both

With a Federal loan potentially financing the project instead of Chinese investors, it remains to be seen who would be chosen to build and operate the rail project. Besides the financial aspects the biggest challenge continues to be the Federal Government’s requirement that the high speed trains must be manufactured in the United States.

Even according to XpressWest Chief Executive Officer Tony Marnell “as everyone knows, there are no high speed trains manufactured in the United States.”

Writer: John Carlo Ottaviani

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