Report by Paul Dyson, RailPAC President
8TH DECEMBER 2009 was a historic day for RailPAC as we held our first ever members meeting in Las Vegas. The meeting was kindly hosted by Bob Fisher, NARP Council member and Director of the Nevada Broadcasters Association. 11 NARP and RailPAC members attended, which is about 30% of our members in the area.
We were fortunate to welcome Mr. Thomas J. Stone, PhD, PE, President of DesertXpress, the proposed steel wheel high speed rail service between California and Nevada. (See www.desertxpress.com for complete information about the project). Tom gave an outline of the history of the project, the route selection and permitting process, and the next steps towards construction and operation. The proposal is now for an electrified railroad which will achieve faster journey times with electric multiple units with many powered axles better able to cope with the stiff gradients along the route. Average speed between Victorville and Las Vegas is projected to be 134mph. Higher speeds are possible but energy consumption would increase considerably for little commercial benefit.
I met Mr. Stone two years ago when DesertXpress was a proposed diesel train between Las Vegas and a huge park and ride at Victorville, CA. Now, according to Mr. Stone, negotiations are advancing to extend the line to Palmdale sharing an alignment with the proposed freeway which will cross the high desert and connect interstates 14 and 15. At Palmdale the Las Vegas line should, if logic holds sway, connect with the California High Speed system. If common sense prevails both systems will use compatible technology and trains would run through to Los Angeles, San Diego and even San Francisco (why not?).
Tom had spent the day with Chinese railroad officials. He has met with all the major equipment manufacturers but more importantly, he is negotiating with teams that will offer Design, Invest, Construct, Operate, and maintain packages that have the capability of starting construction in 2010. He expects to announce a partnership agreement in the Spring of 2010.
After Mr. Stone left we had a general discussion about Desert Express, reinstatement of the Desert Wind, the need to improve Amtrak’s connecting buses, and the state of the industry in general. The group welcomed the Palm Springs connection for DesertExpress. I think we all agreed that Victorville park and ride had a limited appeal, depending on where you journey began or ended in Southern California.
All agreed that the meeting was a success and we plan to meet again, and also to have some kind of event for National Train Day, May 2010, possibly centered at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in nearby Boulder City.