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French-owned outfit hopes to derail Texas bullet train plan

Thursday, March 15, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

The U.S. subsidiary of France’s state-owned railroad company says a high-speed rail plan that would link Dallas and Houston would kill any chance of ultra-fast trains ever servicing Austin. SNCF America announced this week that it has formally submitted to the Federal Railway Administration its objections to the Texas Central Rail project, the privately funded plan that would run bullet trains between Dallas and Houston with a stop in between near College Station. “The Texas Central Rail project has been designed around the best interest of a single company, not what is best for Texans or the state’s rail transportation future,” SNCF America President and CEO Alain Leray said. “If the federal government allows the Texas Central Rail project to move forward as proposed, it would likely close the door on the future of high-speed rail in communities like Austin, San Antonio, Waco and Temple, while placing huge risks on the shoulders of local, state and federal taxpayers.” His company has instead proposed an alternative alignment dubbed the “T-bone” that would start down the Interstate 35 corridor in DFW before forking at Temple, with one line continuing to San Antonio and the other branching off to Houston. That network would connect Texas’ major cities with 480 miles of track, as opposed to the 763-mile triangle that would be required if Texas Central builds a direct route between Houston and Dallas. The company also took issue with Texas Central’s claims that it will be completely privately financed, arguing that the project will face significant debt financing that would have to be picked up by taxpayers if revenues don’t meet expectations – a scenario that is likely, SNCF America says, because the Texas Central plan puts its Houston station far from that city’s center. In a statement published by San Antonio radio station WOAI, Texas Central clapped back on SNCF America, putting special emphasis on its Gallic provenance: “Of course, SNCF, the state-owned and heavily subsidized (at more than $16 billion a year) French National Railway would declare they are against competition and block the world’s best high-speed train technology from coming to the U.S. Contrary to the European model, railroads in Texas are privately owned and operated, and meet the needs of the market, not top-down government plans. Rather than spend the amount of time and resources that Texas Central has invested over many years, the French State Railway is one of many competitors that would prefer to skip to the front of the line and thwart Texas Central’s progress.”

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