Just days before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the USA, plans have been confirmed for a Beijing led consortium and XpressWest Enterprises LLC to form a joint venture to build a high-speed railway linking Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Construction could begin as soon as September 2016 and the announcement has followed four years of negotiations between the parties. The XpressWest line will allow passengers to travel between the two cities in approximately 80 minutes compared to an average highway drive time of approximately 4 hours. This will be the first Chinese-made bullet-train project in North America and although no date has been given for completion it could well be the first high-speed train in the USA. There are around 10 high-speed rail developments in the USA at the moment, but they have so far struggled to gain the support and finance required to make significant progress.
The plans picked up by Bloomberg were in a statement from Shu Guozeng, an official with the Communist Party’s leading group on financial and economic affairs. This will be a major boost to China’s ambitions to turn its ability to quickly build domestic high-speed rail into major global export. The past two years have seen a major focus on this with projects in Africa, Mexico amongst others securing Chinese support (technical and financial) to develop their own High-Speed lines.
Whilst it’s not just high-speed rail that China is making inroads into the American market. October 2014 saw the announcement that China CNR Corp would be supplying trains to the Boston subway in a $567 million deal. Gaining this contract ensured that CNR had global having contracts in Europe, Africa, North America, South America, Australasia as well as Asia.
The agreement represents an important victory for China’s in their rivalry with other high-speed train builders, particularly those from Japan and Western Europe.
"This is the first high-speed railway project where China and the U.S. will have systematic cooperation," Yang Zhongmin, a deputy chief engineer with China Railway Group, said after a news conference in Beijing. “It shows the advancement of China-made high-speed railways."
XpressWest has been under active development since 2005 and aims to serve a corridor linking approximately 22 million people living in Southern California with Las Vegas. With approximately 90% percent of visitors from Southern California driving to Las Vegas the lack of alternative transportation to Las Vegas and the Southwest the team between XpressWest claims threatens the region’s economic stability and future growth. This LA to Las Vegas high-speed rail line is envisioned as the first leg of what will ultimately become the Southwest high speed rail network.
High-speed rail in the USA has strggled to gain real traction, but this project, if successful, and with Chinese backing this now looks likely, may well be the one that leads the breakthrough on high-speed rail in the country.
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