Spain’s national rail operator Renfe on Thursday (Feb 20) announced that it had signed a $6-billion deal with private US rail developer Texas Central to design, build and run a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas in the United States.
In a statement, Spain’s transport ministry said the 5.5-billion-euro ($5.9 billion) agreement would see Renfe work alongside its US partner to develop and operate a line between Houston and Dallas that is to become operational in 2026.
The two firms have signed a preliminary agreement but it is still in draft phase, said Renfe, Spain’s national rail operator.
Texas Central is a privately owned company that is seeking to design, develop and construct a new high-speed passenger train line that will connect North Texas and Greater Houston, in less than 90 minutes, with one stop in the Brazos Valley.
According to a study commisioned by the company, more than 6 million passengers expected to ride the train annually by 2029 and more than 13 million by 2050. The new train will also save 60 to 90 minutes per trip between Houston and North Texas.
The company has announced plans to use state-of -the art Japanese Shinkansen trains to operate the service, which attracts potential investment from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation that funds the export of Japanese technology to other countries.
US regulators are set to unveil safety requirements for high-speed trains which will determine whether the Texas Central project is a federally-recognized railroad. In case the project is federally recognised, it might get possible loan funding from the state.
An Italian construction and engineering firm Salini Impregilo will be in charge of building the 386-kilometre (240-mile) line, the statement said.
For Renfe, the contract’s design and construction phase is worth about $311 million, while operating and maintaining the line from 2026 to 2042 is expected to bring in another $5.6 billion.
The project faces strong local opposition in Texas. Critics have described the project a boondoggle that will require a taxpayer bailout while using eminent domain to steal land that has been owned by families for decades. The proposed route will travels along a utility corridor through 11 rural counties, where thousands of residents are fiercely opposed to the train.
The US company Amtrak runs Acela trains between Boston and Washington however that it says can hit speeds of up to 150 miles per hour.