UNITED STATES—XpressWest, the federally authorized high speed passenger railroad with plans to connect Las Vegas to Southern California, has plans to break ground in mid-2017. Initially, the timeline had construction beginning in 2016, but the company pushed it back to early this year. The High Desert Corridor Joint Power Authority, based in San Bernardino, released a study stating that upon completion in 2035, the high-speed train system would attract 11 million riders and generate over $1 billion annually.
The initial segment of the Las Vegas segment of high speed rail is planned between Palmdale and Las Vegas, and will be attached to the existing service from Palmdale, which is planned to integrate high speed rail between Northern and Southern California. This $8 billion-dollar project is projected for completion in 2021. It is expected to transport 3 million riders and bring in an estimated $300 million in annually.
Part of what makes the high-speed rail system so attractive to travelers is that it provides a combination of luxury and economy in one package. When complete, the train will make the 270-mile run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas along the I-15 corridor in under 2 hours for a mere $115 roundtrip. This cuts driving time and airfares by more than half, and the dining and bar cars, as well as the possibility of future private party car, make this an ideal way to travel to Vegas for the weekend. GIven the high availability of great hotel deals and discount entertainment offerings, getting to Vegas is often the most expensive part of the trip. Using the high-speed rail and several other simple tricks to save money, Vegas suddenly opens up to anyone wanting to go.
XpressWest states that visitor trends and demographics clearly state that most believe the “Las Vegas EXPERIENCE” cannot start soon enough. The train service plans to encompass hotel check-in services, dinner and show reservations and multiple entertainment options all on board the train. Additionally, XpressWest states that high-speed rail stands for the future of sustainable, green energy and efficient high capacity transportation throughout the United States, making it a very popular alternative to fossil fuel transportation.
One of the major setbacks in the progress towards construction was the withdrawal of over $100 million in funding from China Railway International, who was looking to expand its operations outside of China as high-speed train market growth has recently slowed. Another challenge to initiating construction is the federal government’s behest that the trains be domestically built in order to obtain regulatory and compliance approval and, at this time, there are no high-speed trains built in the U.S. At this point, the company has not confirmed securing another investor nor has it updated its timeline, however, XpressWest CEO Tony Marnell stated that he was “encouraged by President Trumps vision for upgraded infrastructure in the U.S.”
Marnell also cited slow bureaucratic movement as an obstacle to construction but remained optimistic that ridership studies highly support the XpressWest project.