California

Nevada company hopes Chinese firm can revive California-Las Vegas train project

A Nevada company is hoping to attract a Chinese firm in an effort to resurrect plans to build a high-speed train that would connect Southern California and the Las Vegas strip.

The Las Vega-based XpressWest said Tuesday its teaming up with a newly formed company called China Railway International to build the railway. China’s high-speed rail network has seen explosive growth in recent years as the nation’s economy boomed.

The announcement about the train to Las Vegas came in a written statement that wasn’t filled with many details. As of 2013, the price tag for the train was about $7 billion.

In its statement, XpressWest said it is "supported by $100 million in initial capital." But it was unclear how it would raise the rest of the money. The Los Angeles Times reports officials project officials have expressed confidence the construction could begin starting September 2016.

"The project will immediately undertake all necessary regulatory and commercial activities to advance the reality of regional high-speed rail in the United States," the statement said. "Implementation will begin within the next 100 days."

The project has the approval to cover about 190 miles from Las Vegas to the California desert city of Victorville, about 100-mile drive northeast of Los Angeles. It hasn’t broken ground. The project still needs government permission to connect with Southern California’s population centers, but the news release claimed the train would reach Los Angeles.

“As China's first high-speed railway project in the United States, the project will be a landmark in overseas investment for the Chinese railway sector and serve as a model of international cooperation,” Yang Zhongmin, chairman of China Railway International told the state-run Xinhua News Agency, according to the Times.

The project currently lacks permission to connect with the state of California’s planned high-speed rail project at a station to be built in Palmdale, 50 miles west of Victorville. A mountain range and about 50 more miles separate Palmdale from downtown Los Angeles.

Questions still surround whether enough people would be willing to drive and park in Victorville then buy a train ticket to make the venture more profitable.

Operating as DesertXpress, the project’s backers previously appeared close to receiving a $5.5 billion federal loan before political opposition and a rule that called for construction with American-made materials scuttled financing.

"There is no change in the status of XpressWest's loan request that was denied in 2013," Michael Booth, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, said Thursday. "They may reapply or seek private funding if they seek to move forward."

China Railway International USA Co. Ltd. became a registered business on Aug. 13, according to records on file with the Nevada Secretary of State's Office.

According to Thursday's news release, it is owned by a "consortium of the world's premier experts in designing, building, financing and operating high-speed passenger rail projects," including China Railway International Co. Ltd. and China Railway Group Ltd.

Zhao Xiuchun, economic affairs officer at the Chinese Embassy in Washington told The Associated Press that he learned about the partnership on the Internet and had no further details.

Click for more from the Los Angeles Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.