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The 2012 rebranded logo for the XpressWest high-speed rail project

XpressWest (formerly known as DesertXpress) is a private venture proposal backed by Las Vegas, Nevada hotel developer Marnell[1] to build a privately funded high-speed rail passenger train in the Western United States to connect Palmdale and Victorville, California to Las Vegas and later to Phoenix, Arizona, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Denver, Colorado.[2][3]


The original plan[edit]

Map of California high-speed rail projects. The XpressWest section of the map is now outdated.

The original plan under the name DesertXpress was to provide an alternative to automobile travel between the Los Angeles area to Las Vegas along Interstate 15 as well as an alternative to airline travel. This highway is a direct automobile route between the two regions and carries heavy traffic.[4] Greyhound buses cover the route in between five and seven hours, while automobiles take around four hours.[5] Currently, there is no passenger train service to Las Vegas. Amtrak last operated passenger train service to Las Vegas in 1997 on its Desert Wind route, which was cancelled due to budget cuts.

The city of Victorville was selected as the location for the westernmost terminal since extending the train line farther into the Los Angeles basin through the Cajon Pass would be prohibitively expensive.[6] Victorville is about 40 mi (64 km) from Riverside, where a station was proposed for the California high-speed rail line. The station will include free parking and through-checking of baggage straight to the Las Vegas Strip resorts.[7] A future extension would include a new link to the California High-Speed Rail station in Palmdale.[8]

The train would travel at speeds of up to 150 mph (240 km/h) averaging 130 mph (210 km/h) and making the 186 mi (299 km) trip from Victorville to Las Vegas in about 1 hour 24 minutes, shaving about an hour off the travel time.[9][10][11] The backers of the project are currently in the process of raising funds for its construction, estimated at between US$4 to 5 billion.[10][12] The cost would be about $21 million per mile, typical of European HSR construction. As of 2011, the project was expected to begin construction in early 2012 and start full service by early 2016.[13]

The new plan[edit]

In June 2012, the developer announced the new plan to build a network of high-speed rail for the region by expanding to Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The initial phase will include two parallel constructions of high-speed tracks, Las Vegas to Victorville and Victorville to Palmdale.

The 185-mile link between Las Vegas and Victorville is designed to be double-tracked which is dedicated for the high-speed trains. The costs of this section is estimated at $6.9 billion. The developer is putting up $1.4 billion in private investment and the rest of funding is pending the 35-year loan from the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program provided by the Federal Railroad Administration. The result of loan application had been anticipated to be announced in 2012. The construction of this link would start immediately after that loan approval, with an estimated service date of 2016.

The developer signed a document with Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials in June 2012 to explore the plan to build a 50-mile high-speed rail link between Victorville and Palmdale. The link will initially connect to the Metrolink system in Palmdale. This will allow passengers to complete a train ride between Los Angeles and Las Vegas with one transfer by using the Metrolink in the L.A. area and a transfer to the high-speed train at Palmdale station. The station will eventually be a connection point of California High-Speed Rail. The early estimate of the costs for this link was $1.5 billion and the earliest environmental work would be completed by the end of 2013. The date of the service for this link has not been determined.[14]

The future phases of the project include a link between Las Vegas and Phoenix, Arizona. Another link will be from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, Utah and terminated in Denver, Colorado.[15] The project was subsequently rebranded to XpressWest to reflect the expanded mission.[16]


Proposed route
Denver (future phase)
Colorado/Utah Boundary
Salt Lake City (future phase)
Utah/Nevada Boundary
Phoenix (future phase)
Arizona/Nevada Boundary
Las Vegas
Nevada/California Boundary
Metrolink to Los Angeles
CHSR to Los Angeles and San Francisco (future phase)


The tracks are planned to be laid largely within the right-of-way of Interstate 15, although in sections it would pass through federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.[7] Station locations in each of the terminus cities have not yet been identified,[7] and the line is not planned to stop at intermediate cities.[12] The train is planned to take 84 minutes to complete a one-way trip between Victorville and Las Vegas.[17] The details of other sections have not been announced.

Service to Los Angeles[edit]

In the original plan, the route does not extend into Los Angeles due to the high cost of building rail in urban areas. The 50-mile (80 km) extension from Victorville to the city of Palmdale, where it would join the proposed California High-Speed Rail system in order to connect with Los Angeles, was not included in the initial phase.[18] In June 2012, the new plan included the link between Victorville and Palmdale as part of the parallel construction for the first phase of the project. Passengers would transfer to Metrolink to access the Los Angeles area.[14]

Ridership and fares[edit]

XpressWest estimates that it will carry around five million round trip passengers in the first full year of operation,[19] with the company charging fares of around $50 for a one-way trip between Victorville and Las Vegas.[17] The round-trip will be around $89.[16] The trains are expected to run every 20 minutes on peak and up to every 12 minutes as demand requires.[20] The estimate of ridership and fares for other sections has not been announced.


In March 2010, executives with the project said they expected construction to begin in 2010.[7] As of October 2011, construction was planned to begin in the last quarter of 2012, with completion in the last quarter of 2016, subject to funding.[21] In February 2013, the federal loan remains unapproved and construction is not expected to start until mid-2014 at the earliest.[22]


A preferred design was identified with the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement on April 1, 2011, which began a public comment period that ended on May 2, 2011. The Federal Government approved the design on July 8, 2011,[19] and the planned route was approved by the Surface Transportation Board on October 26, 2011.[23]

At Victorville station, the services will include concierge services, baggage service and hotel check-in. The trains will be self-propelled, all electric multiple unit (EMU) trains with maximum speed of 150 mph (240 km/h).[20]

Cost and funding[edit]

The total cost of the link between Victorville and Las Vegas was expected to be around US$5 billion.

In March 2010, project planners said they could obtain the full funding amount through exclusively private investors,[7][12] but had also applied for a $4.9 billion loan through the federal Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program.[12] As of October 2011, the start of the project was contingent on receiving a $6 billion loan from the federal government, the approval or denial of which is expected in mid-2012.[21]

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the chairman of the House Budget Committee and senator Jeff Sessions(R-AL), the ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on the Budget are the main opponents to the federal loan application of XpressWest. They argued that the project represented high risk to the taxpayer. They wrote to then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in March 2013 and recommended the administration to reject the loan application.[24] The letter indicated that the total cost was estimated to be $6.9 billion. The $1.4 billion would come from the private sources and the reminder $5.5 billion would come from the federal loan. The letter cited a taxpayer risk analysis report as a basis of their recommendation.[25]

In July 2013, there were reports that loan was indefinitely suspended,[26] which were later confirmed by the federal government, which said that it had been suspended in part due to the failure of the application in regard to the "Buy America" policy which required applicants to use American-made products.[27]

Despite the indefinite suspension of the federal loan application, which was viewed as a denial of the application, the developer indicated that the XpressWest project would proceed without providing the details on financial plan.[28]

In 2014, Nevada Senator Harry Reid mentioned that the federal loan request may resurface, but little had been seen so far of the project's continued viability.[29]

In 2015, the Nevada High-Speed Rail Authority was proposed to look into the feasibility of high-speed rail into southern Nevada from California, possibly XpressWest.[30] The bill was first introduced on April 7, 2015 and was passed by the legislature on May 20, 2015 by a vote of 40–1,[31] and was approved by the Governor on May 27, 2015.[32]

Joint venture[edit]

On September 17, 2015, XpressWest and the newly formed China Railway International USA Company (a consortium of Chinese rail industry companies) announced a joint venture to design, build, and operate the service between Las Vegas and Palmdale, with construction planned to begin in September 2016.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "China to Help Build Las Vegas-to-Los Angeles High-Speed Railway". NBC News. 17 September 2015. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Rosenberg, Mike (29 July 2012). "Bay Area to Sin City? Las Vegas bullet train backers gamble on record loan". Mercurynews.com. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "China, U.S. Reach Agreement on High-Speed Rail Before Xi Visit". Bloomberg. September 16, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Interstate 15 Northbound – Barstow to Nevada". AARoads. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  5. ^ "Los Angeles to Las Vegas Travel Options". About.com. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  6. ^ "KVBC Las Vegas Story". KVBC Television. Las Vegas, Nevada. 2006-07-25. Retrieved 2007-04-02. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Richard N. Velotta (25 March 2010). "Work on high-speed rail set to begin this year". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  8. ^ Richard N. Velotta (22 October 2010). "Pressure on DesertXpress in first run at high-speed rail". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  9. ^ Gloria Hillard (2012-04-30). "Towns Debate Impact Of Calif.-Las Vegas Bullet Train". NPR. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "Proven, Reliable, Safe Technology". DesertXpress. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  11. ^ Benjamin Spillman (June 28, 2009). "DesertXpress on right track?". Las Vegas Review-Journal. 
  12. ^ a b c d Richard N. Velotta (25 March 2011). "DesertXpress high-speed rail project rolls forward". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  13. ^ "Progress". DesertXpress. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Richard N. Velotta (June 7, 2012). "DesertXpress inks deal to add train link from Victorville to Palmdale, making travel to L.A. possible". Vegas Inc. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  15. ^ "The Network". XpressWest. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Richard N. Velotta (June 11, 2012). "DesertXpress Vegas-California rail project renamed". The Associated Press. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  17. ^ a b Lisa Mascaro (2 July 2009). "Path clears for federal support of fast train to California". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  18. ^ "Expansion and connectivity". Desert Xpress. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  19. ^ a b "DesertXpress – Las Vegas to Victorville Environmental Impact Statement". 
  20. ^ a b "The Trains". XpressWest. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  21. ^ a b Cy Ryan (October 10, 2011). "DesertXpress hopes for federal loan, aims for 2012 start on work". Las Vegas Sun. Archived from the original on October 27, 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  22. ^ Laura Carroll (Feb 12, 2013). "High-speed train project at least months away from start". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved Mar 8, 2013. 
  23. ^ "STB approves DesertXpress route". Progressive Railroading. October 27, 2011. Archived from the original on October 27, 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  24. ^ Demirjian, Karoun (18 March 2013). "High-speed rail project beset by political mine fields". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  25. ^ "Letter from Ryan and Sessions to LaHood". United States Senate Committee on the Budget Republicans. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  26. ^ Warren, Mackenzie (12 July 2013). "Feds suspend $5.5B loan application for XpressWest". KSNV MyNews3.com. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  27. ^ Tetreault, Steve (16 July 2013). "Feds: XPressWest failed to meet 'Buy America' rules for high-speed train". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  28. ^ "XpressWest vows to proceed, despite federal loan denial". Railway Track & Structures. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  29. ^ "Las Vegas rail service plans have seen starts, stops". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Sep 2, 2014. Retrieved 13 Jan 2014. 
  30. ^ Young, Allen (May 26, 2015). "Nevada joins the high-speed rail bandwagon with plans for Vegas, SoCal link". Retrieved May 28, 2015. 
  31. ^ "Vote on SB457". Nevada Legislature. Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau. May 20, 2015. Retrieved May 28, 2015. 
  32. ^ Nevada Legislature SB457, Nevada State Legislature, retrieved July 15, 2015  (Became Chapter 260 - see Bills signed by Governor)
  33. ^ "US-Chinese joint venture to develop Las Vegas high speed line". Railway Gazette. 18 September 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

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