Texas Central plans to fund construction of high speed rail from Dallas to Houston — with early estimates put at about $10 billion — exclusively through private investment. It would consider federal financing, says Lawless, but it will not accept subsidies even if the line fails to turn a profit.
Texas Central Railway, a private company that plans to link Dallas and Houston with a 200-mile-per-hour bullet train as soon as 2021. The venture just might be high-speed rail’s best hope in the United States.
“The project has been progressing below the radar, very quietly, very deliberately, over the last four years plus,” says Lawless. It’s now undergoing an environmental impact study that will take between two and three years, but Texas Central, whose backers include Japan’s JR Central railway, has already conducted its own extensive research. The company, originally called U.S.-Japan High-Speed Rail, looked at 97 possible routes nationwide before concluding that Texas was the ideal place for a high-speed line — and that healthy profits could be made in long-distance passenger rail, a travel mode that for the past 40 years has existed only with the help of massive government subsidies.
“Texas is special,” says Lawless. He lists among its advantages a flat, rural landscape, staggering growth potential, and a “business-friendly approach.” He adds that “as city pairs, Dallas and Houston are pretty unique in the United States.” The cities are 240 miles apart, a distance Lawless describes as a “sweet spot” for high-speed rail, where it beats both air and highway travel.
The company is working under the assumption that both metro area populations will double by 2035, but their economies are already linked to an extent that that the railway’s backers can count on a steady flow of traffic between them. Crucial to the line’s success will be the 50,000 people who commute regularly between Dallas and Houston, currently a five-hour schlep in traffic or an hour-long flight on Southwest Airlines — which, when factoring in security lines and travel to and from the airport, takes longer than the 90-minute ride, downtown to downtown.
Texas Central High-Speed Railway (TCR) is working closely with the internationally respected, high-speed passenger rail leader JR Central’s proven, energy-efficient N700-I Bullet system to safely move people between Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston in about 90 minutes.
* Fast. The maximum cruising speed for a N700-I Bullet train is 205mph. Because of the flat terrain and a relatively straight alignment between Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston, TCR is confident that this route will maximize the capabilities of this technology, allowing it to cruise at top speed.
* Safe. In nearly 50 years of high-speed rail operation, JR Central’s Tokaido Shinkansen has not had a single fatality due to train accidents. JR Central’s state-of-the-art signaling system and its operation within a dedicated, sealed corridor have made travel by train an exact science.
* Efficient. The N700-I Bullet is an electric, large capacity , light-weight technology that results in very low energy consumption per mile, per passenger.