The bipartisan infrastructure bill is expected to create low-interest, long-term loans for large infrastructure projects like the train, the CEO told Y’all-itics.
DALLAS – The bipartisan infrastructure bill in Congress, which will be voted on later this month, will be key to completing the Texas bullet train, according to its CEO.
“I think whatever happens with the infrastructure [bill] it is key for us. I think that would be the final element that would bring us together, “said Carlos Aguilar, general manager of Texas Central, the company that builds the bullet train, in the latest episode of the Y’all-itics political podcast.
Texas Central, which claims it will be funded entirely with private resources, will not apply for any federal grants or taxes to start the project, Aguilar said. Instead, he explained, the bipartisan infrastructure bill is expected to generate low-term, low-interest loans for large infrastructure projects such as the train.
“Our goal has always been loans,” Aguilar added to the podcast. “It’s focused, as I said, on the long-term debt available through, say, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s RRIF program. And that’s what you need to build great infrastructure.”
But how much money does Central Texas need to borrow from the federal government to start building?
“How much it is or ends up being, I can’t say with precision,” Aguilar explained, “our current estimate is about $ 12 billion. But it could be more. It’s in that range.”
Texas Central has already secured letters of intent from banks in Japan and Europe, the railroad said.
But that $ 12 billion in infrastructure bill loans make up about half of the remaining funding needed.
“The hard cost of this is about $ 24 billion. That’s the cost of building it, setting it up, and getting it up and running, installing all the equipment, and making sure you can get into the business. Aguilar continued.
When will construction begin?
For months, Texas Central has publicly stated that construction is expected to begin in late 2021 or early 2022. But Aguilar said the timeline remains fluid.
“Well, it all depends on the funding. You know, that’s the real thing we’re working on right now. All the main elements we need to support the execution phase are in place, ”he explained.
Even if the infrastructure bill spends this month creating long-term loans for Central Texas, is it possible that construction of the bullet train could begin in the next six months?
“It’s ambitious,” Aguilar said. “I think it’s very optimistic to think that we would turn into dirt in six months, but again, we have interest in private funds … so, again, I may not be able to give you more than 50% of possibilities “.
How much will the tickets cost?
For the first time, Aguilar also revealed what a Texas bullet train ticket could cost.
“We’re about 75% of what air travel costs, which is more or less where the price is,” Aguilar said.
Southwest Airlines charges $ 205 to fly between Dallas and Houston with an “Anytime” fare a week in advance, according to a check on its website.
That means a seat on the bullet train (about 75% of the cost of the airfare) can be about $ 153.
Like airlines, Central Texas will have dynamic prices that fluctuate during peak hours. But the train has many more seats than an airplane, with larger cabins and more legroom for passengers.
“That is why the high-speed railway is competitive all over the world. It is not necessarily so cheap “, continued Aguilar.
Once funding is secured, the first 50 miles of runway from Dallas to the south will be built for engineers to test. Texas Central Railroad cars, based on N700 Supreme passenger vehicles used by Japan Central Rail shinkansen service, will be assembled about 18 months before train operations begin.
Texas Central is still expected to be the first bullet train in the United States and, Aguilar said, will also be the fastest on Earth.
“This line will actually be the fastest high-speed rail line in the world,” Aguilar explained. “Our top speed will be 205 miles per hour. We will start at 189 and then, according to the approval of the regulations, we will go at 205 miles per hour … ”
But China has no faster trains, Aguilar wondered.
“Yes, but they have more stops. We have one and, therefore, our average speed will be around 178 and it is the fastest railway system in the world ”.
With the route set by the regulatory agencies, 40 percent of the land needed for the train has already been secured. The rest will be negotiated when the funding runs out, Aguilar said.
Because much of the railroad is elevated, this has significantly reduced railroad crossings from 46 to 11, during the last environmental permit, Aguilar said.
The construction of the system will take 80 and a half months.
Aguilar revealed much more. Listen to the entire conversation with the Jason about the latest episode of Yallitics: