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High-speed rail report estimates 11M riders between Las Vegas and California by 2035

Updated March 2, 2017 - 3:42 pm

A high-speed train system linking Las Vegas and Southern California would attract about 11 million round-trip riders and generate roughly $1 billion in annual revenue by full buildout in 2035, according to a report released Thursday.

The figures were based on a $115 roundtrip ticket that would connect passengers on the publicly funded California High Speed rail system to a private line operated by XpressWest, the company franchised nearly two years ago to build a rail segment from Las Vegas to Palmdale.

“Between California and Las Vegas, there is a very large, proven demand and we forecast that high-speed rail has the potential to be very attractive to people traveling by both auto and air today,” said Mark Buckmaster, an associate with Steer Davies Gleave, the company hired to complete the report for the High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Authority.

About 3 million passengers are projected to take roundtrip rides when the first segment between Las Vegas and Palmdale, California, is completed by XpressWest in 2021, generating about $300 million in annual revenue, according to the study.

However, it remains unclear whether XpressWest will be able to operate the dual-track line within five years.

In June, XpressWest cut ties with a Chinese company that was supposed to help finance the $8 billion project. At the time, XpressWest executives said they terminated the partnership because China Railway International had difficulty meeting performance deadlines and had trouble getting the authority to proceed with development.

XpressWest executives this week did not respond to questions about whether the company has secured another investor. Additionally, the company did not provide an updated construction timeline.

Construction for the first leg was supposed to start in fall 2016, but that date was pushed to early 2017. The project would start with a 185-mile segment from Las Vegas to Victorville, California, following the Interstate 15 right-of-way. From there, the track would extend 50 miles from Victorville to existing commuter service in Palmdale.

Eventually, Palmdale’s commuter rail connection would be upgraded to high-speed rail when California’s system is completed and ultimately links to XpressWest.

In a prepared statement, XpressWest CEO Tony Marnell said that environmental work is completed and that he was “encouraged” by President Donald Trump’s “vision for infrastructure in the United States.”

“Like many projects that require collaboration with the federal government, our development efforts have been subjected to a bureaucracy that has been in a state of transition,” Marnell said. “The ridership study validates the Las Vegas to Southern California high speed rail corridor as the best investment for high speed rail in the United States.”

Contact Art Marroquin at amarroquin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.

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