On the eve of Xi Jinping’s official visit to the United States last September, an announcement was made out of the blue that China would be helping a private US company to build a high-speed railway connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Nine months later, that is no longer the case.
Earlier this week, XpressWest announced that it was terminating its relationship with China Railway International (CRI), a decision that was based “primarily upon difficulties associated with timely performance and CRI’s challenges in obtaining required authority to proceed with required development activities,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
Basically, it turns out that Washington requires that high-speed trains must be manufactured inside the United States. The only problem with that is that there are no high-speed trains made in America. The company questioned the logic behind the requirement in a statement:
As everyone knows, there are no high-speed trains manufactured in the United States. This inflexible requirement has been a fundamental barrier to financing high-speed rail in our country. For the past 10 years, we have patiently waited for policymakers to recognize high-speed rail in the United States is a new enterprise and that allowing trains from countries with decades of safe high-speed rail experience is needed to connect the Southwest region and start this new industry.
And there’s no country that loves high-speed rail quite as much as China. Currently, it leads the world with over 19,000 kilometers of track. Its safety record certainly isn’t spotless — in one of the defining events of this decade in China, two trains collided near Wenzhou in 2011, killing 40 people — but it’s good enough to try and export around the world. China has made bids to build high-speed rail lines through the UK, Australia, Southeast Asia, Iran and Mexico.
However, they’ve had a run of rotten luck recently. After triumphing over Japan in a battle to build a railway in Indonesia, that project has since been met with multiple delays and some just want it scrapped. In March, Thailand announced that it would be financing a long-proposed rail project by itself, thank you very much. Meanwhile, China has received no response from Taiwan about a proposed cross-strait tunnel with high-speed rail.
XpressWest had been looking to build a high-speed line between LA and Las Vegas for years, but was unable to secure funding. Ahead of Xi’s visit, it was announced that China Railway International had already pledged $100 million in initial capital toward the project that could begin as early as September 2016.
“As China’s first high-speed railway project in the United States, the project will be a landmark in overseas investment for the Chinese railway sector and serve as a model of international cooperation,” Yang Zhongmin, chairman of China Railway International Co Ltd, said at the time.
While XpressWest says it will continue to “aggressively pursue” other partners in building the line, this likely isn’t good news for China’s hopes in helping to build a high-speed railway between Los Angeles and San Francisco — much less one across the Pacific.