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California cuts high-speed rail cost to $68.4bn

4 April 2012

California's High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) in the US has unveiled a revised plan for high-speed rail in the state, trimming costs by $30bn.

Under the new business proposal, the CHSRA plans to shave off costs by upgrading existing commuter and freight lines in some areas instead of building new tracks.

The plan combines new high-speed rail facilities with existing systems in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, such as Caltrain between San Jose and San Francisco, cutting the cost of the 570 mile rail project to $68.4bn.

High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard said: "Our revised plan makes high-speed rail better, faster and cheaper."

Under the updated plan, the initial 130 mile track in the Central Valley will be expanded in the north side, from Fresno to Merced, as well as in the south, from Bakersfield into Palmdale and the San Fernando Valley.

Construction will start this year on a 300 mile initial operating section, which would lead to electrified rail between Merced and the San Fernando Valley. The new plan will also help improve the safety and efficiency of existing rail service in the Bay Area and Los Angeles regions, preparing the systems for high-speed rail service.

California Governor Edmund Brown Jr said: "In ten years, Californians will be able to travel through the Central Valley and into the Los Angeles Basin in half the time it takes to drive."

Improvements under the new plan incorporate converting local diesel-powered rail systems to electric power, as well as enhancing safety through positive train control. It also includes safety and reliability upgrades to existing Amtrak/Metrolink rail corridors between Los Angeles' Union Station and Anaheim.

According to CHSRA, construction of the entire 520 mile system is scheduled to be completed in 2028, and the service is expected to start in 2029.

About $6bn in funding has already been identified for the first segment of the initial operating section, including $3.3bn in federal funding and $2.7bn in voter-approved Proposition 1A bond proceeds.

The new service is expected to cut down pollution and improve quality-of-life by saving 146 million hours of time spent in gridlock annually, reducing carbon emissions by 3 million tonnes annually, and eliminating 320 billion vehicle miles, travelled over the next 40 years.