The first Chinese-made bullet train for the United States is in the works. A group led by the China Railway Group and American company XpressWest Enterprises agreed to jointly build a high-speed railway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
The Southwest Rail Network is expected to span some 230 miles, linking the two cities. Construction is scheduled to begin as soon as September 2016, according to a statement from Shu Guozeng, an economic affairs official within China's communist party. The agreement was reached after four years of negotiations, and the project will be supported by $100 million in initial capital. The expected total cost of the project and a projected completion date has not yet been specified.
Chinese media, however, has suggested that the project could take three years to complete and cost north of $12 billion, Quartz reported. XpressWest's website states the planned project would shuttle passengers from Victorville, California -- near Los Angeles -- to Las Vegas in about 80 minutes, with a planned average fare of $89.
Las Vegas received a total of 41.1 million visitors last year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. About one-quarter of those visitors came from Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The agreement was signed days before Chinese President Xi Jinping was scheduled to visit the United States and amid a push from China to sell its rail technology in advanced economies, according to Bloomberg. A $567 million contract agreed upon last October for China to supply trains for Boston's subway system marked the first-ever Chinese rail deal in the U.S.
Thursday's agreement was a landmark occasion for the high-speed rail industry, particularly considering JR Central, Japan’s largest bullet-train maker, years ago expressed interest in the LA-Las Vegas line.
"This is the first high-speed railway project where China and the U.S. will have systematic cooperation," Yang Zhongmin, an engineer with China Railway Group, said after a news conference in Beijing, according to Bloomberg. “It shows the advancement of China-made high-speed railways."
XpressWest is a private company run by a Las Vegas developer, and the consortium led by China Railway Group brings together a number of subsidiaries from Chinese state firms.