Foreign Companies Still Want to Bring High-Speed Rail to Texas

If you don't like the idea — for whatever reason — of a Japanese high-speed rail line in Texas, how would you feel about a French or Chinese one? 

Today the Texas Tribune is rather breathlessly reporting that (gasp) there are other foreign companies interested in bringing high-speed rail lines to Texas. 

Specifically, while Texas Central Partners continues to work on building a Houston-to-Dallas high-speed rail line, a controversial project — the rural people situated between the two metro hubs don't like the project, as we reported in our July cover story, "On the Line" — that will employ Japanese Shinkansen technology and some Japanese funding to allow people to travel between the two cities in just 90 minutes, other foreign rail companies are showing interest in the idea of bringing high-speed rail to Texas

According to the Trib, both SNCF America, the American arm of a French high-speed rail company, and unnamed Chinese rail interests have been talking to Texas officials recently about getting their own high-speed rail projects going. 

But here's the thing: This isn't exactly news. 

For one thing, the Trib is talking about "French and Chinese rail interests" as if rail companies have just discovered that Texas might be a good candidate for high-speed rail. In reality Texas has been known as a place with a lot of high-speed rail potential — because the big cities are far apart and the state is fairly flat — for years. That was why Texas TGV, another French rail company, infamously tried and failed to build a high-speed rail line here back in the 1990s.

And then there's the specific French and Chinese rail interests that are supposedly just now nosing around and quietly talking to Texas officials about their own high-speed rail projects, according to the Trib. But, once again, in the case of the French company, SNCF America, they've actually been working on a high-speed rail project running from Dallas to San Antonio since 2009. The company hasn't been as flashy as Texas Central but SNCF has been here all along. 

Then there's the Chinese angle. The Trib reports that "Chinese-backed rail interests have also approached some transportation officials in Texas about future projects, several transportation officials confirmed."

So, to break this down, this "development" is that unnamed Chinese rail interests have talked to unnamed Texas transportation officials about unnamed future projects, all of which has been confirmed by said unnamed Texas transportation officials. Maybe the Chinese are hanging around, eager and willing to put together high-speed rail lines in the Lone Star State, but this doesn't seem like a concrete confirmation of Chinese rail intentions.  

In summary, the Trib is essentially reporting that some foreign companies (one is French and the other might be Chinese) are possibly sneaking around and talking to anonymous Texas officials about undetermined high-speed rail plans while Texas Central is openly discussing its own plans to build the Houston-to-Dallas line. That's pretty much it. 

An unnamed Texas Central spokesman sent us this line in response to today's "news" from the Trib: "Once our system is built, it will spark a desire among Texans to have multiple cities connected with high-speed rail. One would expect competition from many companies for the design and operation of those future lines."
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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray