News & Reviews News Wire Amtrak working with Texas Central to ‘explore opportunities’ for Dallas-Houston high speed rail

Amtrak working with Texas Central to ‘explore opportunities’ for Dallas-Houston high speed rail

By David Lassen | August 9, 2023

Companies have applied for federal funding for study, design on Texas route

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

Illustration of high speed train at station
A rendering of a Texas Central train at the Houston station that appeared in the draft environmental report for the high speed rail project. Amtrak has announced it is working with Texas Central.

WASHINGTON — Amtrak is working with Texas Central on efforts to determine the viability of the Texas company’s planned high-speed service between Dallas and Houston, and the two entities have submitted applications for federal grants for study and design work, Amtrak announced in a press release today.

“If we are going to add more high-speed rail to this country, the Dallas to Houston corridor is a compelling proposition and offers great potential,” said Andy Byford, who joined Amtrak earlier this year as senior vice president of high-speed rail development programs. “We believe many of the country’s biggest and fastest-growing metropolitan areas, like Houston and Dallas, deserve more high quality high-speed, intercity 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.”

Byford’s role, new within Amtrak, calls for him to develop and lead the execution of the passenger operator’s long-term strategy for high-speed rail throughout the U.S.

Amtrak and Texas Central submitted applications for funding including the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail grant program, the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety and Improvements (CRISI) grant program, and the Corridor Identification and Development program.

Texas Central has sought to build a 240-mile high-speed route with a travel time of less than 90 minutes between Dallas and Houston, and has received a Federal Railroad Administration waiver to use Japanese-built Shinkansen trainsets. It planned to use a right-of-way that would follow existing high-voltage power lines for more than half the route [see “Going Big,” Trains Magazine, December 2019].

Amtrak first worked with Texas Central in 2016 when it entered into agreements to provide through ticketing using Amtrak’s reservation system and other support services.

“This high-speed train, using advanced, proven Shinkansen technology, has the opportunity to revolutionize rail travel in the southern U.S., and we believe Amtrak could be the perfect partner to help us achieve that,” Texas Central CEO Michael Bui said in the Amtrak release. “We appreciate Amtrak’s continued collaboration and look forward to continuing to explore how we can partner in the development of this important project.”

Bui has been managing the company since CEO Carlos Aguilar announced he was leaving Texas Central in June 2022, according to the Engineering News & Record, which also reported that the company’s board had disbanded about that time. Bui was identified in that article as “a senior managing director at FTI Consulting who specializes in ‘liquidity forecast development, business plan development and analyses, collateral evaluations and recovery assessment and contingency planning,’ according to his company biography.”

Texas Central has been largely dormant as an entity since Aguilar departed, with news reports describing the project as “in hibernation” [see “Texas Central faces issues beyond CEO’s departure,Trains News Wire, June 14, 2022]. The company did win a key court ruling regarding eminent domain [see “State Supreme Court affirms Texas Central’s right …,” News Wire, June 27, 2022]. The Texsas Central website still lists no staff members; its most recent press release dates to July 2022, and latest blog post from September 2020. It has not responded to occasional News Wire requests for information. The current Texas Central mailing address, 1301 W. McKinney Street, No. 3500, in Houston, is the same as that listed for FTI Consulting.

5 thoughts on “Amtrak working with Texas Central to ‘explore opportunities’ for Dallas-Houston high speed rail

  1. The biggest need for improved passenger rail service in Texas is along the I-35 corridor between DFW and San Antonio. It is one of the most congested roadways in the United States.

    The Texas Central proposal for a Japanese style high-speed railway between Dallas and Houston is a stunt. It is designed to give Japanese passenger rail technology a foothold in North America. Other than a planned stop near College Station, it would serve no intermediate communities.

    Improved passenger rail service along the I-35 corridor would serve Cleburne, Waco, Temple, Round Rock, Austin, and San Marcos as well as the end points. These communities are too close to make flying an attractive alternative to driving; they are just right for improved passenger rail service.

    The planned Texas Central route would gobble up acres of productive farm and ranch land. Improvement of the DFW to San Antonio corridor could use existing rights-of-way, which could be double tracked and upgraded for top speeds of 125 mph. Think Brightline! Upgrading existing rights-of-way probably would cost a lot less than high-speed line built from scratch.

    Getting people out of their cars is the major market for improved passenger rail in Texas, whether it is between Dallas and Houston or between DFW and San Antonio. To be competitive, a train just must beat the time to drive.

    The original Texas Central plan failed because of the estimated cost and pie in the sky ridership estimates. There is no reason for the American taxpayers to be stuck with the cost of reviving a bad idea. Amtrak, which lost $1.8 billion last year, needs to get its house in order before joining forces with a loser.

  2. Amtrak was the last entity I would consider joining Texas Central on the Dallas – Houston high speed rail project. However, I am pleasantly surprised and hope the partnership will revive and bring the proposed railway corridor to existence.

  3. Japanese-built Shinkansen trainsets running regularly between Dallas and Houston?! Let’s hope this beautiful and realistic dream comes true and sees the light of day!

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

You must login to submit a comment