Effects of Foreign Participation on U.S. High Speed Rail Projects

After the end of World War 2, American passenger railroads declined when they were unable to compete profitably with automobile and airline transport. In 1971, the federal government nationalized passenger service, and eliminated over half of existing passenger lines. Meanwhile, during this same period, many foreign countries were developing and building new high speed train lines: Japan, in 1964; France, in 1981; followed by other Asian, European, and Scandinavian countries. Thus, when rail promoters were planning new high speed lines in the United States (U.S.), starting in the 1980’s, they were obliged to rely on foreign technology, expertise, and to some extent, financial support. In reviewing the existing literature, the principal investigator (PI) finds no studies specifically concerning foreign participation in American high speed rail projects. The PI's preliminary interviews with representatives of foreign banks, train manufacturers, and rail operating companies reveals that they bring differing assumptions about, and organizational frameworks for financing construction and operation of high speed lines in the U.S. This leads the PI to hypothesize that foreign and American companies face difficulties working together, which could interfere with the desired outcome of implementing new lines. The PI proposes to study the issues, problems, and obstacles that foreign rail promoters confront when working with their American partners, particularly with regard to project finance. The PI will focus on France as a representative foreign nation because the French rail industry has been closely involved with American high speed rail projects over many decades. The study objective is to develop policy recommendations for ameliorating the problems associated with foreign participation in American rail project finance. Initial research questions include the following: how do approaches to project finance differ between foreign/French firms and the U.S.? Do French and American companies diverge in their views of the best ways to structure plans for financing new high speed rail lines? How well do French companies understand the U.S. context in which they work? How well do American companies understand the different financing approaches of their foreign partners/counterparts? These questions shape the interviews to be conducted with representatives of French and American companies that bid to construct new lines. They also suggest the relevant documents to be collected and analyzed, such as business and financial plans; bid proposals; correspondence between French companies and their American counterparts; news/business media reports; legislative debates and reports. Information will be collected in 3 states—Florida, Texas, and California—for the period, 1980 to present. These are States where foreign and domestic firms and public authorities worked together to develop high speed rail projects, and where they continue to interact on plans currently under consideration. The comparative, longitudinal approach will generate rich information for understanding interactions between French companies and their American partners/counterparts.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $41589
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    University Transportation Research Center

    City College of New York
    Marshak Hall, Suite 910, 160 Convent Avenue
    New York, NY  United States  10031
  • Project Managers:

    Eickemeyer, Penny

  • Performing Organizations:

    John Jay College of Criminal Justice - CUNY

    899 Tenth Avenue
    New York, NY  United States  10019
  • Principal Investigators:

    Cohen, James

  • Start Date: 20160901
  • Expected Completion Date: 20171130
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01640293
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: University Transportation Research Center
  • Contract Numbers: 49198-31-28
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Jul 5 2017 11:45AM