Texas Central: COVID-19 Could Impact Project Delivery

Written by David Burroughs, News & Features Writer, International Railway Journal
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Texas Central says that the $20 billion project is now “shovel ready,” and following collaboration with the federal government, the State of Texas and a team of experts, it is ready to begin the construction phase once global financial markets stabilize and the federal approvals process is complete.

“Our immediate next step is to continue working with our partner organizations and federal and state agencies, led by the Federal Railroad Administration, to finalize our permits,” says Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar. “The current schedule we have from the federal government anticipates that will happen by July 31.”

However, with partners in Japan, Spain and Italy, Aguilar concedes that there is now a chance that the project will not proceed on schedule. “This is one of those moments where we have to acknowledge how small our world really is,” Aguilar says. “Our engineering partner is in Italy; our operation partner is in Spain; and our technology provider is in Japan. Our financial partners are in those countries, as well as here in the United States. Understanding the impact of COVID-19, and the challenges those countries and the U.S. are facing, is a new fact of life. We are already implementing work from home and other measures to deal with the crisis, but still do not know what other impacts this will have.

“Once we receive our permit approval, our ability to begin construction will be contingent upon financial entities in the U.S., Europe and Japan, all of which are dealing with urgent priorities generated by COVID-19, completing their due diligence process. Like other companies and organizations around the world, we are trying to make the best use of the funding we currently have, paying close attention to COVID-19 updates and putting plans in place to move our project forward as soon as the world is on the other side of this uncharted territory.”

Texas Central expects to create more than 17,000 jobs during construction and have a multi-billion-dollar economic impact across the U.S. However, the company on March 27 laid off nearly 30 employees. Aguilar called the staff reduction “an effort to make the best use of our current funding … We still do not know what other impacts this will have.”

Salini Impregilo has been awarded a design and construct contract for the line, with Renfe and Adif selected as strategic partners for operation and maintenance. JR Central (Central Japan Railway) is the technology provider, while TSU (Team Shinkansen United), comprising Hitachi, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Toshiba, NEC and JR Central, will also supply high-speed rail technology. Texas Central has signed an early contract involvement agreement with Mass Electric Construction for installation of all necessary power, signaling and communications equipment for the project. Other companies involved in the project include Bechtel, Kiewit, Matthews Southwest (MSW) and Suffolk Construction.

October 2018, Madrid, Spain: Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar (left) and Renfe sign the agreement that formalized the Spanish company as a strategic operating partner.
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