California, Belgium to share intel on high-speed rail

Belgium has agreed to provide the California High Speed Rail Authority information on technical standards, engineering knowledge, funding options and other subjects that will help California deliver its planned 800-mile high speed rail system. Belgium has been operating high speed rail since 1997.

Belgium has signed an agreement to share high-speed rail planning and development information with the California High Speed Rail Authority, becoming the eighth country to lend the authority its expertise as California presses on with plans for an ambitious 800-mile high speed rail system.

Belgium will provide the authority information on technical standards, purchasing and building methods, engineering knowledge, funding options as well as operations and maintenance data, the authority said in a statement.

Like many other Western European nations, including Spain and France, Belgium has been operating high speed rail for some time. Its first high speed rail service began in 1997 and today connects Belgian passengers with France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. 

The US is just getting started in building out its high-speed rail system. So knowledge-sharing agreements such as these help US states get up to speed with other countries as they plan out their high-speed rail networks.

The US government is for the first time fostering the planning of such networks. In January, the Department of Transportation awarded $8 billion in high-speed rail grants and more recently opened up competition for an additional $2.3 billion.

The California High Speed Rail Authority, which has been planning the state’s high-speed rail network since 1996, is the most advanced of the US’ high speed rail programmes. As a result, it may become the first one to result in an investment opportunity for the private sector.

Its advanced planning status has also helped California get a sizeable amount of federal support for its high-speed rail network. The authority received $2.25 billion of the $8 billion of stimulus grants awarded in January and has announced plans to apply for a chunk of the $2.3 billion now being tendered.

Besides Belgium, the California High Speed Rail authority said it has signed similar information sharing agreements with seven other countries.