Texas bullet train one step closer to reality with $300M loan

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Texas company wanting to build the state’s first high-speed passenger rail line got a major boost recently.

Texas Central got a loan of up to $300 million from Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transportation & Urban Development and Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

Travis Kelly, vice president of Texas Central, said this is critical to “completing the regulatory processes, doing engineering and design work and securing permits.”

“Driving is unpredictable,” Kelly said. “It should take 4.5 hours to go from Dallas to Houston, but it often doesn’t.”

The bullet train Texas Central is proposing is supposed to take you from Dallas to Houston in 90 minutes. 

“You can use it to surf the web, take a nap, get ready for your meeting, have a meal,” Kelly said. “Whatever you need to do with your time, you can do that on the train.”

Kelly explained they’re working with Central Japan Railway Company, which operates high-speed rail lines in Japan.

“They introduced the concept of high-speed passenger trains to the world [in the 1960s],” Kelly said. “They’ve since been optimizing and improving on that technology over those many decades. We’re going to be deploying their technology.”

Kelly said, right now, their goal is to secure more funding and start construction next year. They expect construction to take about 5 years. 

“I think it’s an aggressive schedule,” said Chandra Bhat at UT Austin’s Center for Transportation Research. “If everything else works out from the technology perspective, from the construction perspective, it may be feasible. But I think there are other elements that eventually come up that have to be addressed and that might put this off.”

Another project in the works in Texas is Virgin Hyperloop One.

They announced their plans to connect North Texas and Laredo through Hyperloop back in July. Their long-term proposal includes a stop in Austin.

Professor Christian Claudel at UT Austin said, “Hyperloop is a radical change from the bullet train concept.”

Hyperloop is a low-pressure tunnel where pods can travel at up to 700 miles per hour, but Claudel said it is more expensive and harder to develop.

“I think that commercial exploitation with passengers is at least a decade away. One of the most difficult parts is safety and certifications,” Claudel said.

Virgin Hyperloop One representatives, however, said their system is cheaper to build, maintain and operate.

They sent a statement to KXAN after this story aired:

“Virgin Hyperloop One’s goal is to have operational systems in service by the mid-2020s, but much of our ability to meet that goal will depend on the speed in which the regulatory process moves forward.  So far, we’ve received a very positive response from government to our technology.”

The $300 million loan Texas Central got is just a fraction of what they need to complete the project. They expect the Dallas-Houston route will cost about $15 billion to complete. 

Hyperloop One doesn’t have any total cost estimates yet. 

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