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High Speed | West coast connection

Work will ramp up in ear nest this year on one of the more controversial high speed rail projects out there: California.

Still battling through legal challenges, the California High Speed Rail Authority has nevertheless released a draft 2016 business plan that it describes as a “foundational document” that reflects the project’s transition from planning to construction to providing passenger service.

The plan sets out a reduction in capital costs from $67.6bn (£47.2bn) to $64.2bn (£44.9bn) and identifies the funding streams to make the project a reality.

The line will run from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin and will eventually extend to Sacramento and San Diego, totalling some 1,300km of rail with up to 24 stations. The first phase will link Silicon Valley near San Jose and Los Angeles, running via the Central Valley. Approaches to Los Angeles will be upgrades to existing line with the section through the Central Valley and north to San Jose on new high speed line. By scaling back the approaches to Los Angeles, it is now hoped that work on phase one will finish in 2024, with operations beginning a year later.

Tuolumne bridge demolition central valley

Tuolumne bridge demolition central valley

Work on the first section of California’s high speed rail link is now underway

“This business plan presents a clear path forward within available funding to deliver the system,” said the authority’s chief executive Jeff Morales at the plan launch.

“By constructing the line between the Silicon Valley and the Central Valley, while also making significant investments in Southern California’s passenger rail systems, a high speed  rail service will become a reality in this state in the next 10 years at a lower cost than previously estimated.”

Last month Ferrovial Agroman was awarded a $442M (£312M) design and build contract for construction of a 35km section of the line in the Central Valley, one of four construction packages on the initial 161km central section between Fresno and Bakersfield. 

By constructing the line between the Silicon Valley and the Central Valley, while also making significant investments in Southern California’s passenger rail systems, a high speed  rail service will become a reality in this state in the next 10 years at a lower cost than previously estimated

Jeff Morales, California High Speed Rail Authority

The section, between Wasko and Shafter, has planning permission and work begins immediately with completion scheduled for 2018.

It is the latest major contract to be awarded on the project in the last six months. 

Last Autumn, Jacobs won the contract to provide design services for a 105km section towards Kern County. It will be responsible for the infrastructure design of the Dragados-Flatiron joint venture’s £770M construction package.

Rail delivery partner

Construction of the line is being overseen by a Rail Delivery Partner team led by WSP/ Parsons Brinckerhoff and including Network Rail Consulting – the international consulting arm of the UK rail operator – and management consultant LeighFisher.

WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff beat Bechtel to the contract, which runs to 2022.

Winning work on California’s high speed rail programme will help Network Rail boost innovation in UK construction works, according to Nigel Ash, managing director of the consultancy.

“This proves that we can compete successfully against strong United States and international companies.

“One of our goals when we launched Network Rail Consulting in 2012 was to export British rail expertise around the world and be an ambassador for Britain’s rail industry. This long term contract firmly establishes us in the US and will help channel innovation back into Network Rail’s core business.”

Network Rail Consulting has previously been selected as part of a consortium to deliver the North South Railway project in Saudi Arabia, and to assist with a major upgrade of Sydney’s rail network.

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