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Virgin Trains seeks $US 3.6bn bonds for California–Las Vegas line

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Privately-funded inter-city passenger operator Virgin Trains USA, previously known as Brightline, is seeking approval from the states of California and Nevada to raise as much as $US 3.6bn in tax-exempt bonds for a high-speed line linking southern California with Las Vegas.

Virgin Trains USA confirmed last September that it had acquired XpressWest, a high-speed project with rights to develop a federally-approved corridor connecting Victorville, a desert city 137km northeast of Los Angeles, with Las Vegas.

Bloomberg reports that a California state agency could sign off on Virgin Trains’ application in September, which would result in the company borrowing as much as $US 2.4bn in unrated private activity bonds for the project. In November, a Nevada agency will consider a similar request to let the company leverage as much as $US 1.2bn in similar debt.

The government agencies wouldn’t be responsible for the bond payments but they would allow the Florida-based company, which currently operates a service between Miami and West Palm Beach, to access cheaper capital for the $US 4.8bn project.

The California bond sale is planned for the first quarter of 2020, which could see construction start by June with an opening date in 2023.

Should a committee of Nevada’s government representatives approve the plan, almost a third of the state’s annual capacity for such debt would be designated for the project this year and next, which Bloomberg says is a sign of how important it considers the project.

Proposals for passenger rail links from California to Las Vegas go back decades. Most recently the Las Vegas Railway Express, or X Train, a 2010 start-up that had received state approval, issued stock and purchased passenger coaches before being discontinued in 2016.

Virgin Trains says a one-way trip to or from Las Vegas would take around 90 minutes, half the current driving time, and cost less than driving and parking, and flying, according to an economic impact analysis by Beacon Economics LLC.

The company plans to construct the line in the median of the separated freeway lanes along Interstate 15 from Victorville in San Bernardino County. The company expects the majority of passengers will come from Los Angeles County, according to its application to California’s Debt Limit Allocation Committee.

Earlier this year, Virgin Trains cancelled plans to launch an IPO before receiving approval to raise $US 950m in debt to fund its extension from West Palm Beach to Orlando.

 

Source: railjournal.com

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DB approves purchase of 30 high-speed trains

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German Rail’s (DB) Supervisory Board has approved the purchase of 30 high-speed trains, in addition to the 137 Siemens ICE 4, 23 Talgo ECx and 17 Stadler Kiss trains that are also on order.

The new trains will be used to increase capacity, especially on the Cologne – Frankfurt high-speed line and on services between Munich and Berlin.

DB issued a call for expressions of interest for a framework agreement to supply up to 90 high-speed EMUs in October. The specifications call for at least 11,400 seats across the fleet, along with eight bicycles spaces per train.

DB will also invest €500m in its ICE workshops, creating 600 new jobs. The DB facility in Frankfurt-Griesheim will be significantly expanded to increase maintenance capacity, while plans are already underway for the Cottbus workshop to be expanded.

Source: railjournal.com

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INTRAKAT: Underbidder for preliminary works of Thessaloniki Metro extension project

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After two extensions, the tender regarding the preliminary works for the large expansion of Thessaloniki Metro to the western suburbs has been finally successful. The process of the financial offers’ unsealing awarded INTRAKAT as the underbidder with a 27.03% discount. AKTOR came second with 22.03% and Mytilineos-Xanthakis consortium with 9.31%. An important element of this tender was «reasonable» discounts offered, after a long time.

The purpose of the project is to carry out all the required studies, archaeological surveys, utility networks’ and traffic bypasses as well as other required works, at the future constuction sites of the Thessaloniki Metro northwestern extension and Pylea Depot.

It is reminded that the auction took place on October 10, after two consecutive extensions. The original date was July 29th which was  postponed for August 29th and then for the end of October.

The cost of the project is 18.6m euros (incl. VAT) and its duration is estimated at 24 months after the contract is signed. With rough estimates, if the project starts next summer it could be -with no further delays- by mid-2022.

The funding of the project comes from Public Investments Program and the contracting authority is Attiko Metro SA. It is the first major tender for the network’s extension since 2012, when Metro’s expansion to Kalamaria has been auctioned.

Attiko Metro SA, aiming at a further development of Thessaloniki Metro’s network, plans its northwestern expansion. This is planned to be a circular line (11 km long with 9 stations), starting at the «New Railway Station» (terminal) and ending at «Dimokratia» Station.

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Plans for road connection between Elliniko and Athens International Airport via Argyroupolis Tunnel

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The connection of Elliniko area to Athens Airport, El. Venizelos, via Argyroupolis Tunnel is now under consideration. According to information of ypodomes.com, a crucial step was taken last Friday, when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and the Ministry of Environment and Energy.

In the cooperation framework, decisions were made regarding the procedures for determining the evaluation criteria -and their weight- as well as the procedure for the evaluation of Attica’s road axes to be implemented in the next period, which appear to be finalized within the basic scenario.

The document that has been composed by a joint working group highlights the willingness of the Ministries to cooperate on the activation and alignment with Attica’s Regulatory Plan, following what was said at the joint meeting between the Secretary Generals.

Attiki Motorway extension and other road projects

According to the same sources, issues are also being discussed, at a Secretary Generals’ level, regarding major structural intervention projects, both concerning Attica’s Regulatory Plan and the plans of Infrastructure and Transport Ministry for the extension of Kymis Ave., the extension to Rafina (via the Airport), Ilioupolis Urban Tunnel (completion of Athens Intermediate Ring Road), Salamina-Perama underwater Road Link, etc. as well as their relevance to the development of fixed-track networks (i.e. Metro, Light Metro or Tramway and Suburban Railway), as it is provided in the ARP.

The cooperation axes include the exploration of solutions for road inteconnection of Elliniko area and Athens International Airport «Eleftherios Venizelos». The finalization of the investment in Elliniko plays a crucial role in connecting the area with the Airport and could even be considered necessary if one considers the traffic load that will be developed in the area upon the projects’ completion.

Of course, this would not -automatically- mean qualifying Argyroupolis Tunnel (in whatever form it’s decided), for implementation. As the same sources point out at ypodomes.com, there are 6 basic scenarios on how this connection could be made, ranging from having a road tunnel, a train tunnel (Metro or railway), alternative routes (via Vari-Koropi road axis) and more.

What is of value at the moment is that a scenario that was introduced in 2009, i.e. Argyroupolis Tunnel, is re-activated and it is no longer confined to the consideration of road interconnection only, but within a holistic approach and with full respect for the Regulatory Plan of Attica region (in order to avoid adventures in the Council of State).

The apparent shifting of interest towards fixed-track projects from clasic roads may eventually bring to the surface a dual project or the dominance of the fixed-track means of transport.

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