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Amtrak will join California to help buy high-speed rail gear

Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Amtrak agreed to work with California, the only U.S. state planning to begin construction on a high-speed rail project this year, to buy passenger-rail equipment.

Amtrak, the U.S. long-distance passenger railroad, will ask companies starting today for information on building as many as 60 trains, which will add units on the Northeast Corridor, replace Acela trains and provide equipment for California, Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman said.

New trains might cost $35 million to $55 million each, Boardman said in Washington, declining to estimate the value of a contract. Amtrak and California, which plans to begin fast- train rail operations in 2022, will seek bids from companies by September, Boardman said.

“If everyone’s out issuing their own orders, everyone’s subject to what the industry can provide,” said Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. “We can drive the market in a way we can’t if we purchase separately.”

California plans to lay tracks for trains running as fast as 220 miles an hour (354 kilometers an hour) in a $68.4 billion project linking San Francisco with Los Angeles.

Bombardier Inc. of Montreal and Levallois-Perret, France- based Alstom SA built Amtrak’s Acela trains for the route between Boston and Washington. They run on electrified track and are the fastest trains in service in the U.S.

Congress has effectively cut off using federal money to fund California’s rail project. Representative Jeff Denham, a California Republican and critic of the state project, was named this week as vice chairman of the rail subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Boardman said the plan for Amtrak and California to order equipment jointly is “about doing the right thing for the United States” and not a new way to get U.S. money to the California project.

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