High-speed rail from LA to Las Vegas gets on track

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A joint venture between Chinese and American companies promises to connect Las Vegas to Los Angeles with a high-speed train system(Credit: XpressWest)

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The trip from LA to Las Vegas may only take an hour by air, but the hassles associated with air travel have seen numerous proposals for a high-speed rail link between the two cities floated over the years. Lack of cash has usually proven the insurmountable hurdle, but after failing to secure a US$5.5 billion federal loan, XpressWest has found another way forward by teaming up with China Railway International USA in a joint venture that could see the link begin construction in late 2016.

The joint venture between the US and Chinese companies boasts $100 million in starting capital and will fund, construct, and operate the new rail network that will span some 370 km (230 miles) to connect Southern Nevada and Southern California, including stations in Las Vegas, Nevada, Victorville, California, and Palmdale, California, and service throughout Los Angeles. The project is expected to spur new economic growth and tourist development across the region. XpressWest believes construction on the network can begin as early as September 2016.

With average travel speeds expected to be in the vicinity of 150 mph (240 km/h), the new track is an absolute necessity if this venture is to be successful. The only other high-speed train service in the US – the Amtrak Acela Express that links Boston, New York, and Washington DC – achieves these sorts of speeds, but for only very short distances due to track conditions and slower trains using the same routes.

It may not quite run at Hyperloop speeds, but with the high-speed train running on dedicated track at the assumed average speeds it could travel the proposed route, one-way, in around 80 minutes. That may still longer than the average flight time of around an hour for the same trip, but avoids the hassle of dealing with airport security and check-ins.

No announcement has been made regarding the total cost of the project or expected completion dates but, given that Amtrak's president quoted a figure of around $151 billion and about 25 years to build a dedicated high-speed network between Washington and Boston, high-speed train travel between Las Vegas and Los Angeles may be some time off yet.

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