Rival rail company says Texas Central train is 'not right for Texas'
SNCF America, the U.S. branch of the French state-owned rail company, is calling the proposed high speed rail between Houston and Dallas "bad for Texas."
They believe a different route makes more sense for future high speed rail expansion. SNCF America is advocating for a line connecting Dallas-Fort Worth south along Interstate 35 with a spur to College Station and Houston. This "t-bone" plan for Texas has been talked about for years, but has not come to fruition.
Texas Central Railway's plan to connect Dallas to Houston would include a stop in the Brazos Valley but not western cities along the I-35 corridor. SNCF America thinks Texas needs a network of train stops.
"First, it allows to connect cities. For example, Waco suddenly becomes a suburb of Dallas, of Fort Worth. People can live in Waco, but work in Arlington, in Dallas or in Fort Worth," said SNCF America President and CEO Alain Leray. He also claims a different route would save money.
"You try to save on as many miles of construction as possible and that's what the t-bone does," he explained. Leray said that there are cost benefits to a train system with more than just one stop. He also doesn't know if the Texas Central project can be adequately financed.
“Look, ideally, I hope I’m wrong. I don’t think this can be done totally with private funds. It’s just impossible, it has been done nowhere else," said Leray.
Texas Central maintains they can build the 240 mile high speed rail line.
"There is nothing stopping any other company competing for this very same corridor. Unfortunately, a lot of companies around the world are used to responding to government-led opportunities and Texas Central was drawn to this market because of the market," said Texas Central Railway Vice President of External Affairs Travis Kelly. Leadership at Texas Central Partners call SNCF America's comments self-serving. They said it's as simple as other companies not putting their money where their mouth is.
"It's an example of a company trying to skip to the front of the line and not do the due diligence and hard work that Texas Central has done over the last many, many years, with people on the ground here in Texas," said Kelly.
SNCF America claims the bullet train will create a monopoly and limit competition for high-speed rail service.
"I think what they have done up to now, starting from scratch, is actually quite remarkable. This cannot be denied, but when we are talking about competing, what they are trying to do is exactly the contrary," said Leray. He said that the technology used by Texas Central is monopoly technology.
"Those tracks will not be able to accommodate any other technology, so they stand for exactly the contrary of competition. They stand for monopoly because their technology cannot accommodate any other standard," Leray added.
Texas Central believes the Japanese technology they want to use is their best option.
“The European system is a monopolistic system in and of itself and the Japanese system happens to be perfectly fit for the Texas market because it is the safest in the world at 53 plus years of safe operations," Kelly explained. Texas Central said they are now working on studying and responding to comments submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration about the project. The final environmental impact statement is expected to be out in January 2019.
SNCF America said they transport around 155,000 rail passengers a day in Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington, D.C. They also submitted comments to the FRA about the proposed bullet train. Texas Central responded to claims made by SNCF America in a statement:
Tuesday evening Scott Dunaway, SNCF America’s Texas-based spokesperson also sent News 3 an additional statement.