The future of a new bullet train in Texas hinges on Congress passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill. CEO of Texas Central, Carlos Aguilar, said the future of the train depends on what happens with the bill.
In a recent episode of the ‘Y’all-itics’ podcast, Aguilar said, “I think whatever happens with the infrastructure [bill] is key to us. I believe that would be the final element that would bring us together.”
Texas Central is in charge of building the bullet train and will rely on private funding in order to start the project. If the infrastructure bill passes, it will allow for long-term, low-interest federal loans for the train and similar projects.
“Our target has always been loans,” Aguilar said. “It is focused, as I said on the long-term debt that is available through, for example, the RRIF program out of the U.S. Department of Transportation. And that’s what you need to build large infrastructure.”
In the podcast interview, Aguilar added that it is not known exactly how much Texas Central will need to borrow from the federal government.
He said the “current estimate is around $12-billion. But it could be more. It is in that range.”
In addition to the letters of intent the company has from banks in Japan and Europe, the estimated federal loan is half of what is needed.
“The hard cost of this is about $24 billion,” Aguilar explained. “That is the cost of building this, setting it up and doing the start-up, installing all the equipment, and ensuring that you can get to commercial operations.”
Texas Central has plans to begin construction in late 2021 or early 2022, but the timeline could still fluctuate. Aguilar said, “It all depends on funding. You know, that’s the real item that we’re working on now. All the major items that we need to support the execution phase are in place.”
Even if the infrastructure bill does pass this month, Aguilar said it would be “ambitious” for construction to start within the next six months.
“I think it’s very optimistic to think that we would be turning dirt in six months, but again, we are having interest from private funds… so again, it’s possible I cannot give you more than a 50% chance,” he explained.
Aguilar also revealed what the estimated price of tickets for the bullet train could be, claiming they are “at about 75% of what air travel costs, that is more or less where price point is.”
On average, an airline ticket from Dallas to Houston costs $205. On the other hand, a train ticket would cost travelers around $153, according to a breakdown by WFAA.
Actual tickets costs would fluctuate during peak travel times, but the bullet train will hold more seats than a plane and will provide more room to passengers. Aguilar said, “This is why highspeed rail is competitive around the world. It is not necessarily that cheap.”
The first 50 miles are set to be built after Texas Central secures the funding.