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Panel Lays Out Path for High-Speed Rail in U.S.

March 30, 2021

Washington, D.C.—The Rail Passengers Association hosted a panel today featuring Carlos Aguilar, President & CEO of Texas Central; Boris Lipkin, Northern California Regional Director at the California High-Speed Rail Authority​; and Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts​, lead sponsor of the American High Speed Rail Act.

For Immediate Release (21-04)

Contact: Sean Jeans-Gail (202) 320-2723; [email protected]

Washington, D.C.—The Rail Passengers Association hosted a panel today featuring Carlos Aguilar, President & CEO of Texas Central; Boris Lipkin, Northern California Regional Director at the California High-Speed Rail Authority​; and Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts​, lead sponsor of the American High Speed Rail Act.

The panel gave project updates, talked about challenges facing high-speed rail in the U.S., and offered their insight on how President Biden’s plan for a “rail revolution” should be carried out.

You can view the recording of the event here. We’ve also provided a transcription of some of the highlights from the panel:

Carlos Aguilar, President & CEO of Texas Central

7:18 - “We have impact in, I believe, 37 states. It is about 20,000 jobs that will be generated through the supply chain, and about 17,000 or so jobs generated at the construction site.”

12:12 - “This 6th generation of the Shinkansen has some characteristics that we are working through with ERCOT and with others to ensure that the system can adapt to receiving the benefits of the train itself. The regenerative breaking will generate about 10 megawatts everytime we break -- each train. So that means that we need loadbacks to ensure that energy can be captured; we’re looking at battery capacity and other solutions to ensure that is collected by the grid.

13:50 - “Energy efficiency is something that’s important, because when we had that big blackout in Texas as a result of very cold weather in February, there was a bit of speculation as to how much our system would consume. To some extent, people were saying we would contribute to the failure of the system -- and that’s really not the case… Each train will consume at peak 12 megawatts. With our service pattern, we’ll be around 86 to 100 megawatts up to the first six years of operation, and going on to no more than 200 megawatts at full capacity. That tells you that, out of the 80,000 megawatts that ERCOT has to offer, we’re not going to trip the system.”

One Texas Central train uses less than 1% of the energy used by AT&T Stadium at peak demand.

Boris Lipkin, Northern California Regional Director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority

26:00 - “We’ve seen the doubling of construction jobs over the 199 miles to over 5,000 construction workers. We’ve tripled the number of structures that are in construction.”

29:20 - “Already the project has generated close to 60,000 job-years of employment… That’s generated close to $4 billion of total wages and income for the workers, and generated over $10 billion in economic activity.”

30:50 - “For us, January 20th was a big deal… Before, California as a whole and certainly this program was not on the best terms with the previous administration… It was mostly radio silence, and certainly a contentious relationship that we had with the previous administration. But we really see that changing.”

Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts​

37:30 - “I do think we’re coming to a tipping point, because for a long time the federal government has completely failed to be a partner for high-speed rail. If a state wants to invest in highways, the federal government ponies right up. If the state wants to make investments in airports, the federal government ponies right up. But if a state comes to Washington and says ‘hey, we want to build high-speed rail’ -- for any myriad of reasons; because it makes more sense; because you get a better return on investment; because it’s better for the environment; it’s a nicer way to travel; all these things are true -- it doesn’t matter. The federal government offers nothing. That’s got to change.”

38:10 - “Fundamentally what we’re asking for… with the American High Speed Rail Act is just to put high-speed rail on a level playing field with other modes.”

38:40 - “In travel today in America, Americans have fewer options; they have less freedom than most people in other developed countries because high-speed rail isn’t on the table.”

39:10 - “We have reflexive opposition from many Republicans -- for not really any good reason. But that also makes it encouraging, because I think when you sit down and talk with some Republicans who are opposed to this and explain why it makes sense, especially from a business and economic perspective, you can win some of them over.”

43:30 - “One of the reasons why I think Texas is such an important project, by the way, is we’ve got to get over this political hurdle where people say -- Republicans, typically -- that some Americans just don’t like to ride trains. That ‘oh, you can have high-speed rail in the Northeast where people already ride trains, and you can sell it to those liberals in California, but people in deep red Texas are never going to ride a train.’ Well, Carlos is about to prove them wrong, and when he does I think it will take a lot of the wind out of the sails of the opposition.”

About Rail Passengers Association

The Rail Passengers Association is the oldest and largest national organization serving as a voice for the more than 40 million rail passengers in the U.S. Our mission is to improve and expand conventional intercity and regional passenger train services, support higher speed rail initiatives, increase connectivity among all forms of transportation and ensure safety for our country's trains and passengers. All of this makes communities safer, more accessible and more productive, improving the lives of everyone who lives, works and plays in towns all across America.