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Amtrak, Las Vegas Xpress in talks over planned luxury rail project

The company behind a luxury rail line service between Las Vegas and Southern California said operations will not begin in November as hoped, but the X-Train project could get on track next summer with a major new partner.

Las Vegas Xpress Inc., the company behind what previously was called X-Train, has been in talks with Amtrak about a possible collaboration on the long-planned train project, both parties confirmed.

“Amtrak has had discussions with Las Vegas Xpress, formerly known as X-Train, and is exploring an operations agreement between Amtrak and Las Vegas Xpress,” said Olivia Irvin, Amtrak spokeswoman.

Michael Barron, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Xpress Inc., said the rail project is now projected to get underway in July.

“I am scheduling to run in July 2020 as an Amtrak train,” Barron said

Neither Barron nor Amtrak would provide additional details on their possible partnership, citing non-disclosure agreements between the parties.

Meanwhile, Union Pacific Railroad confirmed it has had talks with Barron about the potential use of its tracks for the proposed privately operated passenger rail service, but no lease has been signed.

“We remain in active discussions with United Rail (also known as X-Train/Las Vegas Rail Xpress),” said Tim McMahan, Union Pacific spokesman.

Station questions

Originally, Barron planned to have a station in conjunction with the Greyhound Bus station located at the Plaza in downtown Las Vegas.

Those plans now are scrapped as the Plaza does not plan on renewing Greyhound’s lease for the station.

“Greyhound is in the final term of its lease for the bus terminal,” said Amy Maier, Plaza spokeswoman. “The owner of the Plaza has had no discussion and has no plans to extend, revise or expand Greyhound’s lease for use of the terminal.”

Greyhound also noted the lease was running out, but neither it nor the Plaza would provide an exact date of when that may occur.

“Greyhound is aware of the upcoming lease expiration and is exploring alternative locations to ensure continued service in the Las Vegas area,” said Crystal Booker, Greyhound spokesperson.

Though Barron’s plans as late as December included the station, the Plaza has not had any discussion with Barron or the X-Train team in years, Maier said.

In fact, she said, the Plaza “has since built and opened the Core Arena, a permanent equestrian and multiuse outdoor facility, on the land that was being considered many years ago for the train.”

700 passengers per trip

The planned rail service tentatively is scheduled to run Friday through Sunday, with a typical train carrying 10 passenger cars holding up to 700 passengers per trip. Food and beverage service would be provided.

Package deals with hotel, night club outings, golf excursions and restaurant deals are among the possible amenities tied to the service.

Original plans called for the service to run between Las Vegas and Santa Fe Depot in San Bernadino, California, where passengers could link to additional cities in Southern California via the Metrolink passenger rail system.

If launched in July, it would mark the first scheduled passenger rail service for Las Vegas since 1997, when Amtrak discontinued a route that stopped at the Plaza, then known as the Union Plaza. Las Vegas Xpress has been working on getting the project going since 2010.

Meanwhile, Virgin Trains has announced plans to obtain $800 million in bonds it could leverage into $3.2 billion to go toward developing a separate $4 billion high-speed train project to run between Las Vegas and Victorville, California. That plan requires Virgin to obtain right of way to construct its rail line.

Virgin said it could begin construction on the project as early as the first part of 2020 and have trains rolling by 2023 if funding and the right-of-way acquisition process go as planned.

Barron said that’s where he has a leg up on the competition, with the Las Vegas Xpress project planning to run on Union Pacific freight tracks. That would mean the project does not have to deal with right-of-way issues to acquire land to lay new rail tracks as Virgin does.

“I’m set,” he said.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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