Amtrak exploring partnership with Texas Central to advance proposed high-speed railway between Houston and Dallas

A decade-long vision to operate a bullet train between Texas’ two largest cities, which appeared to have stalled, is potentially moving forward again.


The Japanese Shinkansen is a high-speed train used by Central Japan Railway Company in Japan. Texas Central plans to build a rail line between Dallas and Houston using the same trains.

The largely stalled initiative to construct a high-speed railway between Houston and Dallas is up and running again.

Amtrak and Texas Central, the Dallas-based company behind the long-planned project, announced Wednesday they are exploring a potential partnership to further study and possibly advance the idea of building a 240-mile railway that could transport passengers between the state's two largest cities in a matter of about 90 minutes. The companies said in a joint news release they have submitted applications with several federal grant programs to pay for additional analysis and design work, which has been funded by private investments since the bullet train plan was hatched a decade ago.

"This high-speed train, using advanced, proven Shinkansen technology (from Japan), has the opportunity to revolutionize rail travel in the southern U.S., and we believe Amtrak could be the perfect partner to help us achieve that," Texas Central CEO Michael Bui said in the news release. "We appreciate Amtrak's continued collaboration and look forward to continuing to explore how we can partner in the development of this important project."

The project appeared to have fizzled out last year, because land acquisitions along the proposed railway reportedly slowed and previous Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar resigned. The plan has gotten significant pushback from rural landowners along the proposed route, but a Texas Supreme Court ruling last June gave Texas Central the legal authority to acquire land through eminent domain, offering a glimmer of hope to supporters.

The news release issued Wednesday included endorsements from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. The potential collaboration between Texas Central and Amtrak also drew praise from the Greater Houston Partnership, an economic development organization for the region.

If the bullet train comes to fruition, it is expected to create thousands of jobs while also benefitting the environment. The project would lead to the removal of 12,500 cars per day from Interstate 45 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 100,000 tons per year, according to Amtrak and Texas Central.

The planned Houston station for the railway is the site of the former Northwest Mall at the convergence of U.S. 290, Loop 610 and Interstate 10.

"The Houston business community continues to believe the best way to achieve economic growth and lower the cost of transportation for consumers is to foster innovation and competition," Bob Harvey, the president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, said in a statement. "Faster, safer and more reliable connections between our region and other parts of Texas are vital to our continued economic growth. We are hopeful this new partnership will accelerate the development of this project, and we look forward to working with all stakeholders throughout this process."

Amtrak, the national passenger railroad company of the United States, operates inter-city rail service in 46 of the 48 contiguous states. It previously entered into agreements with Texas Central in 2016 to provide through-ticketing using Amtrak's reservation system as well as other support services.

Amtrak recently created a development program with the vision of expanding high-speed rail service throughout the country, according to the company. It and Texas Central are seeking funding for the Houston-to-Dallas project from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety and Improvements grant program, the Corridor Identification and Development program and the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail grant program, among others.

"If we are going to add more high-speed rail to this country, the Dallas to Houston corridor is a compelling proposition and offers great potential," said Andy Byford, the senior vice president of Amtrak's high-speed rail development program. "We believe many of the country's biggest and fastest-growing metropolitan areas, like Houston and Dallas, deserve more high-quality, high-speed, intercity rail service."

Adam Zuvanich

Adam Zuvanich

Digital Content Producer

Adam Zuvanich writes locally relevant digital news stories for Houston Public Media. He grew up in the Houston area and earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas before working as a sportswriter in Austin, Lubbock, Odessa, St. Louis and San Antonio. Zuvanich returned home to Houston and made...

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