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High Speed Rail Explores ‘Single Track’ Plan for 2029 Service Start in Valley



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California’s High-Speed Rail Authority voted Thursday to send a business plan to the state legislature calling for an initial operating segment between Merced and Bakersfield, with the possibility of opening that segment in 2029 as a single-track service.

Current plans call for a two-track railroad, but the authority’s chief of rail operations, Frank Vaca, outlined the single-track alternative aimed at cutting costs and speeding construction of the first segment.

He said a single-track railroad could save $1 billion in initial costs because it would delay laying 150 miles of rail.

The plan, however, “does not diminish or change any of the operational requirements for the interim service that … includes the 18 trains per day per direction for the service, as well as the 90-minute travel time savings that we’ve relied on,” Vaca said.

The railroad would be double-tracked as demand dictates or when the line is extended from the 171-mile initial service segment. Single-track service is now operated on some high-speed lines in Spain, Germany and France, Vaca said.

Northbound and southbound trains would meet at one of six places: stations at Merced, Madera, Kings/Tulare and Bakersfield, or maintenance-of-way sites south of Fresno and Corcoran. All station trackage would be built as originally planned, with two mainline tracks and two platform tracks. The catenary, signaling, switches, and interlockings for a double-track line would be installed at the beginning, leaving only a second set of rails to be laid when the conversion to double-track operation is begun.

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