Your Commute

Why the makers of Texas' high-speed rail line want to connect to Amtrak

Texas Central Railway
Texas Central Railway

Texans who look forward to the day when they can take a bullet train from Dallas to Houston — a roughly 240-mile trip in about 90 minutes — will now have the added bonus of connecting to more traditional (and slower) Amtrak service.

The company working to build the high-speed rail line, Texas Central, recently announced that an agreement had been reached with Amtrak — the nation's only coast-to-coast passenger rail network — to share services. Such services could include a shared reservation system, through-ticketing and marketing efforts.

"It gives both local and interstate travelers more options and ease of travel not previously available by intercity passenger trains in Texas," Tim Keith, Texas Central president, said in an email.

But that's only if Amtrak survives in its current form.

President Donald Trump's budget proposed cutting more than $700 million in Amtrak funds, which rail supporters say could lead to a shutdown of many long-distance trains that include the two services that offer daily travel in and out of Fort Worth: the Texas Eagle and the Heartland Flyer.

A $12-billion high-speed rail system could transform transportation in the Lone Star State.

Also, Joseph Boardman, former Amtrak chief executive, recently published an open letter expressing concern that the Amtrak leadership is using an upcoming deadline for installation of safety equipment known as positive train control as an excuse to shut down the Southwest Chief long-distance line.

Boardman's letter was shared on Twitter by an Oklahoma passenger rail group, @PassRailOK.

Texas Central officials say their bullet trains — which would cost an estimated $12 billion or more but would be privately funded — could be running by 2023. Construction could begin as soon as next year.

By sharing booking services, Texas Central and Amtrak would make it possible to travel from Houston to Chicago with one ticket. But what would that be like?

The first part of the trip to Dallas would take about 90 minutes, if the bullet trains operate as promised. However, the second leg of the trip — Dallas to Chicago — would take another 22 hours, 12 minutes, according to the current Amtrak Texas Eagle schedule.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796; @gdickson
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