All aboard

Houston-to-Dallas high-speed train hires major international operator

The high-speed train is chugging along. Rendering courtesy of Texas Central

The high-speed railroad from Houston to Dallas has acquired a key new player that will run day-to-day operations.

Renfe, an international railway company based in Spain, has been hired by Texas Central, the project developers, as the train's operating partner. The selection of Renfe as an operating partner marks another major step forward for the Houston-to-North Texas high-speed railroad.

Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar says in a statement that Renfe was chosen after a review of the best railroad operators in the world.

"Renfe has established a reputation for excellence in railroad operation in Spain and across the world, and we welcome them aboard," Aguilar says. "With their decades of expertise, they were a natural fit to join our other partners. Having the operator, the design build, and technology teams all on board and able to collaborate will ensure all aspects of the railroad are integrated and efficient."

A release calls Renfe "one of the world's most significant railways operators," running 5,000 trains daily on 7,500 miles of track. The company is integral to the transport system in its home base of Spain, handling more than 487 million passengers and 19.6 million tons of freight moved in 2017.

Renfe, in partnership with Adif, which manages Spanish railway infrastructure, will be responsible for running the trains; maintaining system components, such as engines, signals, and other equipment; and overseeing ticketing, passenger loyalty programs, and other services.

It will also provide technical advice on the design and construction of the Texas train and assist in the further development of Texas Central's operation and maintenance plans, preparing the railroad for passenger service.

Renfe is one of the biggest companies in Spain, employing nearly 14,000 people and recording revenues of 3.6 billion euros in 2017. Its high-speed systems were used by more than 36 million passengers in 2017. In March, Renfe announced that it had posted a net profit of 70 million euros in 2017, thanks in part to a jump in the number of its high-speed passengers, chalking up five consecutive years of growth.

Renfe president Isaías Táboas says the deal is a boon for Texas and for the Spanish railway industry.

"Texas Central represents a large high-speed train project in a country with high-growth potential, for which the Spanish experience will be of great help," he says. "Both Renfe Operadora and Adif have accumulated years and miles of high-speed railway development with professional teams, extensive experience, and specialized knowledge. We are committed to the success of Texas Central in improving the mobility of Texans and others in the U.S."

The agreement comes about a week after Texas Central engaged multinational firm Salini Impregilo ­– operating in the U.S. market with The Lane Construction Corporation – to lead the civil construction consortium that will build the passenger line, including viaducts, embankments, and drainage.

Spain's first high-speed line between Madrid and Seville was dedicated in 1986 and Renfe's first high-speed service connected the cities in 1992.

Its second high-speed line, from Madrid to Barcelona, was completed in 2007. Renfe also operates high-speed service from Barcelona to Paris, Lyon, and Toulouse in France. Among other major international projects, Renfe operates the recently opened high-speed train between Mecca and Medina, in Saudi Arabia.

The 200-mph train will link Houston and Dallas in 90 minutes, with a midway stop in the Brazos Valley.

The Texas train will be based on the latest generation of Central Japan Railway's Tokaido Shinkansen train system, the world's safest mass transportation system. It has operated for more than 54 years with a perfect record of zero passenger fatalities or injuries from operations, and an impeccable on-time performance record.

Texas Central and its partners are refining and updating construction planning and sequencing, guided by the Federal Railroad Administration's recently released draft environmental impact statement. The FRA now is working on a final environmental review that will help determine the project's timeline and final route.

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Pack your bags, Owls. Photo via Rice.edu

Rice University owls are flapping their wings across the Atlantic Ocean in order to open some doors to global education and research opportunities in Europe.

The university announced in a press release that the Rice University Paris Center is holding its ceremonial launch on Wednesday, June 29. The new facility will be housed in a historic 16th-century building in Paris and will be home to Rice-organized student programs, independent researchers, and international conferences, as well as a satellite and hub for other European research activity.

“The ambitions of our university and the needs of the future leaders we are educating require global engagement and perspective,” says outgoing Rice President David Leebron in the release. “The opening of this dedicated overseas facility represents the next step in the long-standing plan we have been pursuing to internationalize Rice and the Rice experience in every dimension.

"This has included welcoming more international students to our campus in Houston, fostering international travel and programs by our students and faculty, and building strong relationships with the best universities across the globe," he continues. "The Paris location offers an incredible range of opportunities, in fields ranging from art and architecture to international business and global relations and politics.”

The Rice University Paris Center will be located in Le Marais in the Hotel de La Faye, a 1500s hôtel particulierthat was listed as a historic monument in 1966.

Caroline Levander, currently Rice’s vice president for global and digital strategy, was key in making the new center a reality and will oversee the Rice University Paris Center in her new role as vice president global.

“For our purposes, this building is an ideal educational space conveniently situated in one of the most historically significant areas of Paris,” Levander says in the release. “It looks and feels like a private university campus in the heart of a European capital city, and it reflects how Rice plans to expand its international impact in the coming years.”

Sylvester Turner and a delegation of civic and business leaders from the Greater Houston Partnership will attend the announcement in Paris this week. Per the release, the center, which will have six classroom spaces of various sizes that can accommodate around 125 students, is expected to be ready in January.

“Rice University’s mission statement commits us not only to pathbreaking research and unsurpassed teaching, but also to the betterment of our world,” says Provost Reginald DesRoches, who will transition to Rice’s president in July, in the release. “We’re eager to extend that mission internationally, and the opening of the Rice University Paris Center demonstrates that commitment.”

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