Clean Transport Central_Shinkansen_700

Published on July 30th, 2014 | by Jake Richardson


200 MPH Houston-Dallas Bullet Train Planned

July 30th, 2014 by  

A 200 mph Houston-Dallas bullet train is being planned by a private company called Texas Central Railway. The company’s CEO is Richard Lawless, who lived in Tokyo when he was a C.I.A officer in the 1980s and rode the Shinkansen bullet train. This train covers about 300 miles between Tokyo and Osaka averaging well over 100 mph for each trip.


Currently, the Texas bullet train project is gradually shaping up, with an environmental impact study under way. It has been very quietly progressing over the last four years or so. A website for Texas Central Rail says the plan is to have a high-speed rail route that is competitive with flying and faster than driving.

When we hear of monumental plans such as this one, we may tend to think of government subsidies and the cost to taxpayers. This project is completely set up to be funded by private interests. The cost has been estimated at around $10 billion.

Japan’s JR Central railway is one of the Texas company’s backers, so there is more than Lawless’s own Japanese rail riding experience and vision that is connected to Japan. How long will it take to create a Texas bullet train?It might be by 2021 at the earliest that the Houston-Dallas high-speed route is up and running.

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen bullet train began service in 1964 and in just three years had transported about 100 million passengers. In the contemporary era, the bullet train saves about 15,000 tons of CO2 per year. Bullet trains in Japan allow two pieces of luggage per passenger. Bicycles are acceptable as well.

This not to say the same conditions will be in place for a potential Texas bullet train, but if they were, passengers seeking an alternative to flying might find them attractive.

The launch of a bullet train in Texas would undoubtedly draw some tourists as well. In 2013, Texas had about 233 million domestic visitors and over eight million from other countries. A very fast train connecting two of the states largest cities would likely increase tourism.

Would you ride the Texas bullet train?

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  • TA

    Oh my what a bunch of negative comments. If you have never ridden on a high speed train don’t comment. It is absolutely one of the best ways to travel and you don’t have to worry about the weather grounding you or sitting in tiny little seats made for a 5 foot person.We should have already had this train. I go between Houston and Dallas all the time and would take a HST over flying any day of the week

  • Don MacQuarrie

    Air sledd is simpler, cheaper, and faster

    • Bob_Wallace

      You have an unproven idea that might make for “simpler, cheaper, and faster”.

      Reading through this discussion –

      – you come across as yet one more person who thinks they have the greatest idea ever and isn’t willing to do the hard work to prove it.

      Making statements about your idea as if it is a working technology is misleading.

      • Don MacQuarrie

        I have a working scale model. Search you tube videos for “air sledd”.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Saw it. As did other people, who raised issues.

          My point – don’t present your idea as if it is fact.

          • Don MacQuarrie

            It is a fact that it works and can be scaled up. I really don’t understand what you are talking about. Maybe you could try constuctive criticism and articulate why you don’t think it works – when it so obviously does. I can tell by your tone and inuendo that you have nothing better to offer than insults.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Don – it works in your head. Only in your head.

            If you don’t understand that simple fact then you’re in over your head.

          • Don MacQuarrie

            Still no constructive comments?….hmmmm.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You got one, Dan.

            It’s just not what you want to hear.

          • Don MacQuarrie

            You should research “wing in ground effects aircraft” to see that “in fact” they do work. Also mention what “issues” that you are talking about. Also look up zero-emission “japanese aerotrain”.

  • Alex

    Is there REALLY a market for bullet trains in Texas? I grew up in Austin and I’ve been living in Kyoto, Japan for over a decade. The bullet train is THE way to travel to and from moderately distant places like Tokyo, but consider this: the Tokyo metropolitan area has 36.9 million people while the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area has 19.3 million people.
    The most heavily traveled bullet train route in Japan runs between these two areas, which are about as distant from each other as the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas are, but it is their high populations that explain why the route is profitable.

    So what about Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston? 6.8 million and 6.3 million people, respectively. Yes, the generally flat terrain lowers construction costs, but I’m still skeptical of whether a bullet train can be profitable in Texas. I’d like to see some more numbers, though I guess in the end you don’t really know until you try.

  • José DeSouza

    High speed intercity rail combined with convenient, comfortable and affordable urban rail can be a win-win:

  • jburt56

    Upgrade to maglev. You are Texas.

  • JamesWimberley

    The Obama Administration is expected to quietly remove one longstanding roadblock to high-speed rail in the US: regulations of the Federal Railroad Administration (link) requiring carriages to have a heavy steel construction, instead of the lightweight alloy frames of European and Japanese trains. High weight makes for more expensive track as well as trainsets.

    If you look at photos of the Santiago de Compostela crash last year (link), SFIK the only HSR crash worldwide at speed (200 kph), you’ll see that most of the carriages are upended and concertina’d but not crumpled. The deaths and injuries were presumably caused by passengers being thrown about, not crushing.

    The accident took place on a section of track where the latest generation of signalling with automatic braking was not yet working for that particular trainset. The driver is being blamed for a system failure.

    • Jan Veselý

      Yep, the driver almost doubled speed limit in the curve and the train fell off rails.

      • Bob_Wallace

        There should be redundant safety systems in trains which would simply make this impossible.

        We’ve developed the technology in self-driving cars that would prevent these sorts of accidents.

  • Matt

    Road the HSR in China this month. They were running 310kph (~200MPH) very smooth, much easier and nicer than a plane. Yes slower, but for a trip this length the airport saving might make up for it.

    • Steve Grinwis

      With planes slowing down for fuel economy, and trains speeding up how long until the train is faster?

      • No way

        Never… unless you remove the air resistance for trains. Vacuum tunnels have been in the pipe line for decades (long before any Mush hyperloop 😉 but so far no one has dived in and tried to make it happen.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Elon seems to have given the idea a kick in the butt. Now we have groups developing the design. And we have at least one scaled prototype running.
          The hyperloop makes more sense to me than a vacuum system. Much easier to maintain a tail wind in a tunnel than to turn it into a vacuum. Putting fans in the system that largely evacuate the air in front of the train and create a strong tail wind should make for a quick ride.

    • Wayne Williamson

      Haven’t ridden the high speed rail, but just finished with the state of the art air travel, 30 minutes to load and 30 minutes to unload for a 1.5 hour trip was fun….

      • Wayne Williamson

        Oh yeah, the trams between sections of the terminal(no idea what to call them) gave you about 1 minute to get on/get off….

  • patb2009

    unless the japanese fund it all, it won’t happen. too much money, too many years to get the ROW. The market is adequate but it’s something the next round of investors will make money on not these ones.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Japan might finance. Or China might.

      Japan has financed some expressways in Thailand which have made a huge difference in driving times. They’re running them as toll roads for the first 20 years and then donating them to the government. An interesting financial model….

  • Mr. Jones

    I personally enjoy travel by rail, but 50 MILLION dollars per mile. Wow.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “The cost to construct one lane-mile of a typical 4-lane divided highway can range from $3.1 million to $9.1 million per lane-mile in rural areas depending on terrain type and $4.9 million to $19.5 million in urban areas depending on population size.

      However, in urban areas restrictions (high cost of additional right-of-way, major utility relocation, high volume traffic control, evening work restrictions, etc.) may increase the cost per lane-mile. If restrictions exist the cost to construct one lane-mile of a 4-lane divided highway can range from $16.8 million to $74.7 million.”

      $3.1 to $74.7 million per lane.

      $12.4 to $298.8 million per mile for a four lane highway. Median = $155.6 million per mile. Puts that $50 million per mile HSR cost in a different light, eh?

      • Steve Grinwis

        Thanks for this post Bob. Informative.

      • Mr. Jones

        It certainly does. Best part about the project – privately funded.

    • MrMullen

      That includes cost of stations and bridges. Your average Texas HSR mile would be a lot cheaper than 50 million dollars.

  • Paul_McClure

    Sounds like good idea. It appears that this will be an alternative
    to car versus the usual air. Connecting to each cities mass transit
    would make a useful system. They say they will develop new lines,
    naturally, along existing public corridors as much as possible. Sounds
    like reasonable route planning. Good advertizing to have the train
    whisk by as everybody sits in traffic.

    Curious about track ownership. Ideally the company would build and maintain track and facilities. Land on a fairly direct path median should be considered valuable and scarce. The State should not give the precious property away freely without compensation. Suggest renting the land for an annual fee plus per train charge. If the company goes away it should be fine track and stations for commuter rail.

  • Bubba

    I guarantee you the owners of this train line will have a pricing scheme like the airlines do — if you want a last minute ticket you’ll pay a lot more. Want to leave at rush hour? That will cost you more. And since it’s a for-profit company they will have no incentive to keep prices as low as a government owned railway would. Pricing will be a few bucks less than a seat on an airplane. Maybe. But the profit margins will be huge since they are building this thing on public property and won’t have to pay land owners.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I suspect you’re right. European HSR has better prices for less used travel times. That just makes sense.

      As far as price-jacking. There is built in competition from planes and cars. Personally, I’d pay a few bucks more to ride HSR rather than fly. There’s the to/from airport time. Arriving an hour early to get fondled. The boarding/seating issues. Baggage issues/restrictions.

      Have you ever ridden HSR?

      (A “Bubba” against private ownership and for government owned trains?)

      • Burnerjack

        Bob, I expect rail station ‘fondling’ is already in the offing. Just waiting for a Madrid style attack to make that a reality. Hope I’m wrong, but, alas, this is the world we find ourselves in.

        • Bob_Wallace

          It’s not happening in Europe. While airport security is like US security.
          I suppose it might happen. We’ll have to wait and see.

        • JamesWimberley

          It’s impossible to prevent a terrorist attack on mass transit or indeed private transit by technical means. The Madrid Atocha bombings were on suburban trains, not long-distance. A little later a railway worker found a bomb planted on the high-speed AVE line during a routine inspection before it went off. The network was dismantled by police, Spain withdrew its token troops from Iraq, and there has been no recurrence.

        • No way

          You make it sound like terrorism is actually a problem. There are many scary things and things that kill people in large numbes but terorrism in western countries isn’t really one of them.
          But it’s easy propaganda to get fearful sheeps to react in certain ways.
          If it were human lifes that were the concern then there are so many things possible to do to save a number of lifes every year with ease.

        • just_jim

          You may be right, but it’s irrational.

          The main driver for increased airport security was the the 9/11 attack. When I see someone drive a train into a skyscraper I’ll agree that there’s a need for more train security. Until then, let the passengers take their own risks and leave them alone.

    • Burnerjack

      Bubba, I respectfully disagree. With a rise in ticket cost comes competition from air traffic. If it’s too high, demand destruction ensues and you lose the customers you were hoping to profit from.

    • EnTill

      They will set a price that people are willing to pay, as with everything else.

      Government is no guarantee for low prices, governments are notoriously inefficient.

    • MrMullen

      Not really since in Japan they don’t do this. The Japanese don’t jerk around with prices. Your Shinkansen ticket that you buy 15 minutes before the train arrives is the same as the one you buy a month before.

      There is also a huge incentive to be price competitive since the train will compete with Cars and Planes.

  • Dink

    I live in Dallas. Nope, would not use the train.

    • Bob_Wallace

      And that’s important information exactly how?

      • moderatelyimmoderate

        Well… the article is asking us a question. What have you offered by being snarky?

        • Bob_Wallace

          I got to use up some of my oversupply of snark and shared it with the world.

          • andereandre

            Nothing against snark as long it is renewable.

          • Bob_Wallace

            My supply is time-limited.

            I’m hoping for a couple more decades before it exceeds its calendar life.

    • Calamity_Jean

      Do you ever need to go to Houston?

      • AltairIV

        I’ve done both routes, and I’d say they make for a fair comparison. Some quick googling says Dallas-Houston is about 385km and Tokyo-Osaka is about 400km, a negligable difference at the speeds we’re talking about. But D-H would probably be even faster than distance alone would indicate, as the terrain between them is more open and level than in crowded, mountainous Japan.

        The T-O Shinkansen takes 2-2.5 hours and is very smooth and
        pleasant. It really is a lot like flying without leaving the ground, and
        without having to deal with the hassles of check-in, security, and hurry-up-and-wait.
        Total travel time is comparable to flying when you consider the total
        door-to-door experience, and with much less hassle.

        One difference I see though is at either end of the route, within the cities themselves. Japanese cities are relatively centralized, with excellent internal public transport systems. Getting to the Shinkansen station is usually as simple as hopping the local train or hailing one of the ubiquious taxis. But the Texas cities are large and sprawling, and unless you plan to stay only in the city center you still really need a car to get around. For a large part of the population the high-speed train station might not be any more convenient to get to than an airport.

        • Calamity_Jean

          Car rental and car sharing companies need to set up shop within walking distance of the train stations.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Really good public transportation like the French Metro and Washington, DC subway system.

            If you’re in a city you shouldn’t have to walk far to access rapid, affordable transportation directly to train stations. And there should be plenty of parking along the major access routes into cities so that one could leave their car before getting into the urban mess and transfer to public transportation.

            And, while I’m dreaming, some cheap, long term parking with good access to the transportation system.

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