Lots of Private Interest in California High Speed Rail
Yesterday the California High Speed Rail Authority announced the results of its Request for Expressions of Interest – and it should be no surprise that the private sector responded strongly:
More than 1,100 expressions of interest flooded into the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s offices in Sacramento prior to a Wednesday deadline – from businesses ranging from self-employed entrepreneurs and small businesses to multinational corporations and large construction firms. The submissions were in response to a “Request for Expressions of Interest” issued by the Authority in February, asking that the private sector put in writing their desire to help develop California’s high-speed rail project.
In the responses, companies addressed the design, construction, operation and funding aspects of both the initial construction segment in California’s Central Valley and the overall first phase of the statewide project stretching from the Los Angeles basin to the Bay Area. The responses will help guide the next stages of the formal procurement process and the packaging of future bids.
Here we have very clear evidence of private sector interest in this project. It’s not just businesses looking for contracts, but funders looking for an opportunity to partner with the Authority to help build the system – because they know it will generate a lot of riders and a lot of revenues.
The Authority’s press release included some quotes from the private sector and other partners:
“We look forward to being a participant in and working with the California High-Speed Rail Authority in making this project the first very high-speed success story in the US.”
-Guillaume Mehlman, President, ALSTOM Transportation Inc.
“We are prepared to immediately partner with the Authority in developing an implementation approach that builds on current passenger rail transportation successes such as the Capital Corridor and San Joaquin services, just to name a few.”
-Albrecht P. Engel, Amtrak
“This prospect is tremendously exciting in that it links the major cities of California in a visionary and market changing way. This is an opportunity to which VRG is prepared to commit substantial resources to, in order to assist the Authority in achieving its objectives. We believe that California is a market very well suited to High Speed Rail.”
-Virgin Rail Group
“We are excited for the opportunity to participate on such a monumental project.”
-Bill Trombley, Director of Preconstruction Services, Skanska USA Civil West California District
Some of those quotes are more specific than others, obviously, but I thought the comments from Virgin Rail Group were particularly interesting. They are saying, quite clearly, that they can bring money to the table. That’s not new – Richard Branson expressed interest in our project over two years ago and reiterated that commitment in 2010.
Certainly the details matter – and we don’t really have those yet. But that will get fleshed out in time. What this response shows is that the private sector is very interested in – and confident in – the HSR project here in California. That won’t stop right-wingers from attacking the project, just as it didn’t stop Florida Governor Rick Scott from killing their HSR project even though the private sector was willing to help fund the project and pay any cost overruns. But it should remind us of the truth, that HSR is popular in the private sector, just as it is with the voters of California.