Chinese, US firms hope to resurrect LA to Las Vegas train

A Nevada company that has labored for a decade to connect Southern California and the Las Vegas Strip via a high-speed train is hoping help from a Chinese firm will get the project on track.

Las Vegas-based XpressWest said Thursday it has partnered with a newly formed company called China Railway International to build the line. 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 was short on details. As of 2013, the price tag for the train was around $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, and a person who answered the phone at XpressWest's offices would not elaborate beyond the statement.

"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 not broken ground. It currently has the approval of regulators to cover about 190 miles from Las Vegas to the Mojave Desert city of Victorville, California, about a 100-mile drive northeast of Los Angeles.

The project needs further government permission to connect with Southern California's population centers, but the news release Thursday asserted the train would reach Los Angeles.

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.

Skeptics have long questioned whether enough people would be willing to drive and park in Victorville then buy a train ticket to make the venture 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 that 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, said by phone that he learned about the partnership on the Internet and had no further details.

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