Renfe submits bid to help build first high-speed rail line in the US

Spanish operator wants to advise California on technical and commercial aspects of the project

Ramón Muñoz
An artist's impression of the California bullet train.
An artist's impression of the California bullet train.CHSRA

Renfe, the Spanish state-owned railway operator, has submitted an offer to develop the first phase of a project to bring high-speed rail to California.

Renfe is partnering with Adif, which manages Spanish railway infrastructure, and with other members of a consortium that hopes to win a contract to provide advice on how to build a 1,300-kilometer line linking Sacramento and San Francisco in the north of the state with Los Angeles and San Diego in the south.

Once finished, the line will connect Los Angeles and San Francisco in under three hours

When completed, it would be the United States’ first high-speed train service.

The California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) issued a release on Thursday detailing that it has received four offers, including one from China, for this early phase of the project. The six-year contract for technical and commercial advice is worth an estimated $30 million (around €25 million).

The CHSRA is looking for an experienced partner that could ultimately also take charge of operations on the section between Silicon Valley and Central Valley.

The contract for phase one will be awarded on October 6. If successful, the Renfe-led consortium could then bid for a second phase to develop the line.

The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2029 and will cost an estimated $64 billion, according to Bloomberg. The bullet trains will cover a distance of 1,287 kilometers at top speeds of 320 km/h and stop at 24 stations. Once finished, the line will connect Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours.

International challenges

The California high-speed rail system and the bullet train between Mecca and Medina, in Saudi Arabia, are Renfe’s two major international projects. Early this year the Spanish operator pulled out of a bid to operate the West Coast line in the UK.

Renfe’s offer for the California line reinforces the Spanish presence on a project where ACS has already secured the contract to build a 100-kilometer stretch of track for around €990 million, while Ferrovial has landed the contract to lay out 35 kilometers for around €400 million.

Spain has had a high-speed railway system, known as the AVE, since 1992.

English version by Susana Urra.

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