Ruhma KhanMercury Staff
Texas Central’s petition for rule of particular applicability in process of approval by administration.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misstated the type of proposed train as well as the project’s approval status. These have since been corrected. The Mercury regrets these errors.
A Texas-based company is aiming to build the nation’s first bullet train.
Railway company Texas Central is undertaking the project. The train will run between North Texas, Houston and the Brazos Valley area.The proposed train will be an N700 Supreme, custom-built for Texas market.
Holly Reed, managing director of external affairs said the two federal approvals necessary before the project can get to construction are an environmental approval and a safety approval, called a rule of particular applicability. Texas Central’s petition for a rule of particular applicability has not been approved. FRA issued notice that they are proceeding with approval process.
“The action by the Federal Railroad Administration a week and a half ago is a major milestone forward. That is movement of one of the two federal approvals that need to happen to get to construction,” Reed said.
Texas Central estimates the construction period will be five to six years. According to their website, tickets will have a variable pricing model, with high-end tickets costing about as much as a plane ticket while low-end tickets will have pricing competitive with the cost of driving.
Reed said the environmental draft process has been underway for years with the draft of the environmental impact statement from the FRA coming out in late 2017.
“The draft environmental impact statement is a document that comes from the Federal Railroad Administration; it is over 5000 pages and looks at whether the project should be built, and if it’s built, how to build it in a way that is least impactful for communities and the environment,” Reed said. “The results of that draft coming out were that it should be built.”
Reed said the project will be the first true high-speed train in the United States.
“It is the preferred environmentally friendly way to travel between Houston and North Texas because it is a very clean alternative, it’s powered by overhead electric,” Reed said. “It is a very efficient, aerodynamic way to travel and we already know that there are 16 million trips being made between (Houston and North Texas) each year and growing because Texas’s population is growing.”
The train will be an alternative solution to air pollution in Texas as the population grows and will be less impactful on the environment than building new roads or flying, Reed said.
“In addition, we can build the train as the population grows. You don’t have to build incremental lanes, and service roads and development. You build a train once and just run it more frequently when there are more people,” she said.
Reed said the company has agreements with landowners on 30% of the parcels necessary to build the rail.
“There’s no perfect way to measure progress. If you use acres, if you use miles, if you use parcels, they all have a little bit of a struggle for how to account for what one agreement is. We have chosen to measure success by parcels because that is an agreement that we have with landowners,” Reed said. “We view this as a very personal experience, so we want to track our progress by how many of those agreements on each piece of land we’ve come to.”
The company’s website states that the 240-mile project will cost over $12 billion and construction could begin as early as this year.