Media Kit » Try RailPrime™ Today! »
Progressive Railroading
Newsletter Sign Up
Stay updated on news, articles and information for the rail industry

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

View Current Digital Issue »


Rail News Home High-Speed Rail


Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Florida Rail Enterprise meets with prospective project bidders


Last week, the Florida Rail Enterprise (FRE) held an industry forum in Orlando, which brought together business groups, economic development organizations, and federal, state and local officials that have a stake — or want to have a stake — in the state’s high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando.

About 1,600 people attended the event, including foreign and domestic technology providers, contractors and operators, as well as elected officials. Attendees expressed excitement over the project and a sense of urgency in moving the program forward, says FRE Chief Operating Officer Nazih Haddad.

FRE officials held one-on-one meetings with industry players and consortia that had formed to bid on a contract to design, build, operate, maintain and possibly finance the state’s high-speed rail project.

Among the interested parties, according to FRE:  
• Florida Mobility Partners, a consortium comprising Portugal’s Soares de Costa; Spain’s Ferrovial Agroman, Talgo Inc. and Cintra; and the United States’ Prince and Invensys Rail North America.

• A consortium comprising the United States’ Bechtel and Amtrak, and France’s SNCF America.

• A consortium comprising the United States’ Parsons, and South Korea’s Samsung, Korail, KRTC, GRDC, KRRI, Korean Consortium and Korea Railway Association and Hyundai Rotem USA.

• A consortium comprising the United Kingdom’s Balfour Beatty Rail; United States’ HDR, Parsons Brinckerhoff, PCL Civil Constructors and Lane Construction; Japan’s Mitsubishi International, Central Japan Railway Co., Florida High Speed Rail L.L.C., Sumitomo Corp. of America and Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

• A consortium comprising Spain’s ACS Infrastructure Development and Dragados USA; United States’ T.Y. Lin International and GE Transportation; China’s TSDI, CSR SF China and CRCC China; and Brazil’s Odebrecht Infrastructure.

• Florida Rail Ventures, a consortium comprising Germany’s Siemens, France’s Veolia; Spain’s Global Via USA and FCC; United States’ Granite and Jacobs; and Sweden’s Skanska.

• A consortium comprising France’s Alstom and Vinci Concessions; Spain’s OHL USA; United States’ PBS&J, AECOM, Hubbard Construction and Archer Western Contractors; and the United Kingdom’s Virgin Group and Virgin Rail Group.

• An incomplete consortium comprising United States’ Kiewit, Canada’s Bombardier and the United Kingdom’s National Express.

The players represent a “who’s who” in the high-speed rail industry, says Haddad. During the one-on-one meetings, consortia members said they were confident the Florida high-speed rail project would move forward and anxious to proceed with a public-private partnership, even though not all of the funding had been identified, says Haddad. The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $1.25 billion in stimulus funds and $808 million in FY2010 transportation appropriations dollars for the project, but FRE still is short about $300 million.

That’s not a concern to many of the consortium members, who suggested they would work with FRE to identify additional funding sources and possibly provide some private-sector financing, says Haddad.

But one concern they do have is the Federal Railroad Administration’s regulatory process — namely, the “rule of particular applicability.” Because the FRA currently doesn’t have a standard rule for U.S. high-speed rail safety and operations, FRE is working with the agency to develop a rule that would be specific for the Florida high-speed rail project.

The rule would cover safety issues that are specific to Florida’s proposed high-speed operations, but not currently addressed by FRA regulations. It also could include requirements for signal systems, track safety standards, rolling stock, operating rules, system qualification tests, personnel qualification requirement and power distribution, according to a presentation given by FRE at the forum.

“The Florida project would be governed not through a standard, nationwide rule because there isn’t one yet. Because this would be the first project out of the chute, we need to develop a rule of particular applicability,” says Haddad. “We need to do that because of the timeline we’re operating under. We can’t wait however many years for the FRA to develop a standard rule that applies to everyone.”

But developing such a rule would carry some risks for contractors. The FRA can’t develop a rule until it knows specifically what equipment will be used on the Tampa-to-Orlando line. However, potential contractors are concerned they could sign a contract with FRE and then find that specifications included under the rule of applicability increase the project costs, says Haddad.

“It’s a concern, but there’s no way around it,” he says. “We can’t finalize a rule of particular applicability until after the selection of the entity because you may have certain specifics with regards to technology and equipment and rolling stock.”

Consortium partners also have concerns over Buy America requirements.

“They have no qualms over the infrastructure part of it or, to an extent, the systems part of it — communications, electrification, etc. — but the rolling stock is what they have a little bit of difficulty with,” says Haddad. “They would have to build facilities to manufacture trains. There’s some concern over the cost associated with building here because they’d be mobilizing to build five trainsets for the initial project. [Building a new facility] also could delay the project.”

Despite the concerns, consortium partners excited about the project, and interested in not only building and operating the Tampa-to-Orlando segment, but also a future segment from Orlando to Miami, says Haddad.

“The interest has been incredibly high,” he says. “Everyone’s looking to get the foothold into this country as far as high-speed rail.”

FRE hopes to advertise for early construction work and the public-private partnership to build the system in the coming months. But how quickly they’re able to proceed will depend on how much support they have at the state level, post-election. Governor-elect Rick Scott hasn’t outright opposed the high-speed rail project, but has indicated he doesn’t want the state to provide funding for it.

FRE officials continue to conduct engineering work for the Tampa-to-Orlando line. In the meantime, they’ll also need to speak with Scott and his transition team to review the project.

“The governor elect is going to need to learn about and understand this project a little bit more,” says Haddad.

Angela Cotey

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/17/2010