March 8, 2019 - TRA opinion -

Texas Rail Advocates has responded to a story that showed a grim picture of the proposed private-investor high-speed rail project between Dallas and Houston.

TRA President Peter LeCody responded to a March 7, 2019 story by William Patrick, 'Legal Issues Could Derail High-Speed Rail in Texas', that has several inconsistencies.

The article and the response:

Texas Central Railroad has pushed a high-speed (124-210 mph) rail in Texas for years. Recent recent legal developments, however, may derail the project.

A failed high-speed railway in California, an update of federal railroad regulations, and a February ruling in the 87th District Court against TCR's right to eminent domain have struck potentially lethal blows to TCR's proposed privately funded bullet train.

Moreover, officials for SNCF America, Inc., a world leader in high-speed rail travel, whose parent company operates the French National Railway, said Texas doesn't need a bullet train.

“High speed rail is not the way to go in Texas,” President and CEO Alain Leray, told the Herald-Press Thursday. “Look at the Concorde aircraft. It was faster than a 747, but the market wouldn't bear it. Ultimately, we still fly in 747's.”

TCR officials, however, said plans to connect Dallas and Houston with a state-of-the-art railway remain on track.

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Response from Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody:

To correct misinformation in this story:

1. "A failed high-speed railway in California" is a public project. The Texas Central (TCR) high-speed Dallas to Houston train is a private venture. Apples compared to oranges.

2. The SNCF (French Railway) spokesperson Leray says Texas doesn't need a bullet train. But SNCF is a world leader in high-speed rail and runs dozens of bullet trains in France - so is it OK in France but not good enough for the U.S.? SNCF failed in its attempt in Texas years ago because it wanted taxpayer money and couldn't close the deal. TCR said they will not accept state or federal handouts and aims for private investors. TCR has a better business case and the SNCF press release should be chalked up to sour grapes.

3. State Representative Cody Harris was wrong when he referred to TCR's "use of federal authorities to seize land from rural Texas families". Not so.  No federal agency I am aware of will seize land for an intra-state railroad.The Federal Railroad Administration has 'oversight' on how all railroads can operate safely, not take land through eminent domain. That is a state issue.

4. The California high-speed rail public project is not scuttled as the reporter said. It is a mismanaged state government project that has now been scaled back, probably only using state funds in the future.

5. SNCF's Leray said that rail is completely unprofitable. Mostly true but the world is changing. Brightline in Florida is the first privately owned passenger railroad startup in decades. They are combining a train service with real estate holdings and related ventures to expand their footprint to other areas of the country. TCR's business model may look the same. Already without a single mile of track being laid developers are planning to revitalize parts of Dallas and Houston that have been in decay around the proposed terminals.

6. Representative Harris, who was elected with $1.1 million in campaign contributions, about 5 times the normal amount needed to win a rural district election, has filed four anti high-speed rail bills in the current legislative session. He is representing his constituents who may not want a high-speed train taking up an average 100 foot wide right-of-way, similar in width to a county road, but he may not see what is coming down the road for the citizens in his district. The Texas State Demographer said that over 80% of Texans live between the I-35 corridor and the Louisiana state line. That's smack dab in part of Harris' district. Texas' population will continue to intensify in the rural areas and expand south from Dallas and north from Houston. It might be better to work with companies like Texas Central to minimize impact on people and the environment rather than spend millions to fight something that if not built this round, will be coming.