Texas Central, Amtrak reach agreement for $16.5 billion bullet train services

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Texas Central and Amtrak announced Friday that the two companies have reached an agreement offering through-ticketing and transfer services for passengers traveling between Amtrak and Texas Central stations.

The agreement comes after Texas Central announced earlier this week it selected engineering and management company Bechtel to act as project manager for the proposed high-speed train route between Houston and Dallas. Bechtel will help Texas Central manage the high-speed train project—colloquially called the Texas Bullet Train—as it moves from development to implementation, according to a May 2 news release.

Texas Central, a private company, plans to construct a 240-mile high-speed rail route from Houston to Dallas. When completed, the multibillion-dollar route will provide riders a 90-minute trip between the two cities, traveling at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.

The agreement between Texas Central and Amtrak will allow passengers to use Amtrak’s reservation system to purchase tickets for travel on both the high-speed rail and Amtrak’s national routes, according to a statement from Texas Central. Additionally, Texas Central will offer a transfer service for riders seeking connections between Amtrak passenger stations and high-speed rail stations in Dallas and Houston. Amtrak’s training, markets and sales capabilities are also available to Texas Central as part of the agreement.

“This agreement is another important step in the progress of the Texas Bullet Train,” Texas Central President Tim Keith said in a statement. “It gives both local and interstate travelers more options and ease of travel not previously available by intercity passenger trains in Texas.’

As Amtrak has not operated service between Dallas and Houston since 1995, Texas Central’s high-speed route and agreement with Amtrak will help facilitate interstate train travel, according to a statement.

“Amtrak supports the development of high-speed train service throughout the United States as part of a national passenger rail system, capable of meeting the nation’s transportation needs,” said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer, in a statement. “When Texas Central’s high-speed line begins operation, the joint ticketing arrangement will benefit Amtrak customers who currently cannot connect by train between Texas’ two largest markets. We welcome the opportunity to partner with the private sector to expand the reach of our national network.”

The Federal Railroad Administration released a draft environmental impact statement in mid-December, which outlines the preferred route for the railway. The FRA is reviewing public comments received early this year on the DEIS before issuing a final environmental impact statement. Although the DEIS proposed three locations for the Houston station, Texas Central and Houston officials selected the Northwest Mall area in February as the preferred location for the Houston station—one of three proposed stations along the route. Stations are also proposed in Grimes County, located along Hwy. 30 just west of Hwy. 90, and Dallas, located near the I-30 and I-35 interchange.

According to a statement, Texas Central’s high-speed train is expected to pour $36 billion into Texas’ economy over the next 25 years by providing additional state and local tax revenue, creating 10,000 jobs during each year of construction and boosting development around the three proposed passenger stations.

“These agreements between Amtrak and Texas Central provide for a passenger-first coordination of services that will increase Houstonians’ access to Amtrak’s national system and maximize the national impact of the Texas Bullet Train,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said in a statement.

Construction of the high-speed train, which would be privately funded, is estimated to cost $16.5 billion and begin in 2019, according to the DEIS.

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COMMENT
  1. A dallas article has Amtrak training tcp on how to manage . That is scary! So a person would leave dallas pay big money for hsr to catch a shuttle to Amtrak houston. Then get on Amtrak and head to NOLA ? Wounding it be cheaper and a lot faster to fly?

  2. Donovan Maretick

    Does anyone else find it alarming that this project started at 10 billion, went to 15 billion and is now 16.5 billion and hasn’t even broken ground. People hold on to your wallets as these thieves are getting ready to steal our tax money. Let’s stop this before they are awarded federal loans.

    • This project is privately funded. Their website states, “As for federal loans, the project will explore all forms of capital available to private companies to finance debt for the project, including federal loan programs like RRIF and TIFIA. These programs are specifically designed to promote private investment to improve and innovate US infrastructure. They are no different in principle than Perkins loans to help make college more affordable, SBA loans to encourage small business and mortgage-interest deductions to support home-ownership.” Sounds like a great was for the government to make its money back plus interest and for a private company to invest in much needed transportation infrastructure.

      • Great way for the government to make its money back on paper!
        Wha5 happens when they go broke or default?

      • And just where does the federal government get money ?

        Taxes !

        A government has zero monies, not even1 cent, that it does not take from citizens…

        Time you should get a dose of reality & rethink all the scenarios this private company is presenting.

      • Privately funded? This boondoggle will cost the tax payers billions. Let’s play a game of simple math:
        Cost: $16,000,000,000 (estimated costs have already increased 60%, but we’ll use this number)
        Time to pay off: 20 years
        Amount to pay off per year: $800,000,000
        Cost of a ticket to compete with air travel: $100 per one way trip (This is a guess on my part, but it’s probably realistic. Even if Texas Central were to double the price to $200, the numbers still don’t add up; see below Acela comparison)
        Number of riders per year to pay off this project: 8,000,000 (almost 22,000 riders / day)

        How realistic are the ridership numbers for TCR if they want to make a profit with no government money? For some perspective, Amtrak’s Acela train runs up the NE corridor (DC, Boston, Philadelphia, NYC). The combined metropolitan area along the route is around 35 million people (compare that to the combined greater Houston and DFW area population of 11.1 million people). Even with that large number of people, Acela transported a mere 3.3 million passengers (2013) in a year (a bit more than 8,200 riders / day).

        Of course, once you factor in operating costs, preventative maintenance, and repairs, the numbers get worse for TCR. The initial investment and high upkeep costs are the main reasons that there are only 3 (yes, only 3) high-speed train lines that don’t lose money; one is in France and 2 are in Japan. Of those 3, only 1 actually turns a profit while the remaining 2 break even. Texas Central’s only hope would be to beg for a government bailout.

        Texas Central can make some news, but they can’t make the math work.

  3. Christie Parker

    Yes this boondoggle started at 10 billion and now up to 18 billion (notice the +-) and this doesn’t include ROW and they unfortunately were incompetent and didn’t read current county/state laws so they are not allowed to close, reroute or go under roads. So add on many billions for this oversight. They haven’t accounted for all the changes to pipelines and other utilities so add on More billions. I hope everyone knows that they made a colossal error on sales tax in the DEIS to the tune of more than 50 billion. Yes folks this really bright group never contacted the comptrollers office to find out they are not getting sales taxes on ticket sales. They excluded excise taxes on airline tickets as well so this boondoggle will costs all the taxpayers hundreds of millions a year overall. So now they want to join up with passtheough tickets with Amtrak and unrealistic travel times in order to try to get eminent domain because they still don’t have this. Be very wary of this group who are smiling to your face yet are taking from your back pocket and eroding your property rights with unethical practices and flat out lying.

    • Do you have any sources to provide more detail on your statements?

      Since this is a privately-funded project, I don’t see how this project is taking from our back pockets. Eroding property rights seems very suspect, likely untrue for anyone residing in the metropolitan-area. What would be some of your alternative ideas for improving the effectiveness/efficiency of inter-metro travel? Highways being created or widened could require eminent domain. Additional flights between Dallas and Houston can create the need for more runways, expansion or creation of new airports. Again, eminent domain may be necessary. Funny enough, expanding highways or airports would require tax dollars for funding.

  4. Why do we need to improve transportation between Houston and Dallas in the first place? How much demand is there for this? Are our current modes of travel over subscribed?

Anna Lotz
Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in the Tomball and Magnolia communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.
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