US inter-city passenger operator Amtrak has announced that it has joined Texas Central, the private company looking to develop, design, build, finance and operate a high-speed line from Dallas to Houston, to apply for federal funding for the project.

To fund further study and design work, Texas Central and Amtrak have submitted applications to several federal funding programmes, including the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety and Improvements (CRISI) grant programme, the Corridor Identification and Development programme, and the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail (FSP-National) grant programme.

Amtrak says that it has cooperated with Texas Central on various initiatives since 2016, when the passenger operator entered into agreements to provide through ticketing using the Amtrak reservation system and other support services for the planned high-speed line.

The two companies are now evaluating a potential partnership to further study and potentially advance the project, including work “to further determine its viability.”

The proposed 379km high-speed line using Shinkansen trains operating at up to 300km/h would offer a journey time of under 90 minutes between Dallas and Houston, both amongst the five largest metropolitan areas in the US.

Amtrak says that the high-speed project would complement new and improved corridor and long-distance passenger services in the southern region.

It also points out that high-speed passenger services operating on dedicated, purpose-built rights of way can radically reduce journey times, achieve excellent reliability and provide significant capacity, “all things that will drive ridership and help convince people to shift their trips to rail,” Amtrak says.

The project is forecast to provide significant social, environmental, employment and economic benefits for the state of Texas. It is estimated that high-speed rail services will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 90,718 tonnes a year, saving 246 million litres of fuel while removing 12,500 cars a day from Interstate highway 45 between Dallas and Houston.

Construction and operation of the high-speed line would bring significant economic benefits to the region, including “thousands of well-paying construction jobs” and nearly 1000 skilled operating and maintenance positions.

Amtrak’s long-term strategy for high-speed rail is now being developed and implemented by Mr Andy Byford, who joined the company in April to take up the new role of senior vice-president of high-speed rail development programmes.

Byford moved from Britain where he was formerly London’s transport commissioner, at the head of Transport for London (TfL). Byford is now working on building a team at Amtrak that is focused on high-speed opportunities throughout the US.

“If we are going to add more high-speed rail to this country, the Dallas - Houston corridor is a compelling proposition and offers great potential,” Byford says.

“We believe many of the country’s biggest and fastest-growing metropolitan areas, like Houston and Dallas, deserve more high-quality, high-speed inter-city rail service and we are proud to bring our experience to evaluate this potential project and explore opportunities with Texas Central so the state can meet its full transportation needs.”

“This high-speed train, using advanced, proven Shinkansen technology, has the opportunity to revolutionise rail travel in the southern US, and we believe Amtrak could be the perfect partner to help us achieve that,” says Texas Central CEO, Mr Michael Bui.

“We appreciate Amtrak’s continued collaboration and look forward to continuing to explore how we can partner in the development of this important project.”

Announcement of the partnership has been welcomed by the US High-Speed Rail Association (USHSR).

“It’s exciting to see Amtrak and Texas Central work together to explore the viability of a world-class high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston,” says USHSR president and CEO, Mr Andy Kunz.

“The future of transportation in the US is with high-speed rail, which offers a safe, fast, efficient and clean alternative to car and air travel. We look forward to working with Amtrak, Texas Central and the Biden administration to advance this critical project.”

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