The Project

Before the first high-speed train leaves the station, careful planning and coordination are first on the schedule.

The privately funded Texas Central High-Speed Railway (TCR) is promoting the project that will offer a faster and safer option for travel between Houston and Dallas, two of the largest cities in the U.S. The project is the shared vision of Texans who live here, work here and—like you—sit in traffic here.

The project will not be built or operated by a government agency, funded by federal government grants or require that its operations be subsidized by taxpayers, but instead be funded by private investors and built and operated by private entities.

Because the project must return a profit to its investors, decisions related to potential routes, schedules, fares, station locations and services offered, among others, will be based on market demand.

The Team

Texas Central High-Speed Railway is a U.S. company headquartered in Texas, with offices in Dallas, Houston and Washington DC. Our entire team is engaged with and responsible for collaborating with the cities, counties and communities along the project’s route.

Richard Lawless – Chairman and CEO
Drawing from extensive private and public sector experience in and between Asia and the United States, Richard has developed key relationships and perspectives critical to TCR’s success. From TCR’s Washington, DC office, Richard oversees, guides and directs TCR’s engagement with new and existing partners and manages overall project promotion.
Robert Eckels – President
Robert’s career in the public sector gives him a keen sense of what it takes to make large infrastructure projects a reality. As President, Robert is doing what he does best – bringing together potential investors and project partners, managing key relationships with community and elected officials and TCR’s current partners, while keeping the public and critical stakeholders informed of the project’s progress. Robert’s acclaimed leadership and determination to succeed, especially in efforts offering a significant positive impact to the state of Texas, have placed TCR squarely on the path to success.
Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer – Senior Advisor
J. Thomas Schieffer, the former United States Ambassador to Japan and Australia, has joined Texas Central High-Speed Railway as a Senior Advisor. Prior to serving as an Ambassador, Schieffer was President of the Texas Rangers Baseball Club where he oversaw the successful construction of The Ballpark in Arlington. Schieffer is founder and President of Envoy International LLC, a consulting company that provides a wide range of servi to international companies.
Ambassador Ron Kirk – Senior Advisor
Ambassador Ron Kirk is a Senior Advisor to Texas Central Railway and Senior Of Counsel in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Dallas and Washington, D.C. offices. He is Co-Chair of the International Trade practice and is also a member of the Public Policy, Crisis Management, Mergers and Acquisitions and Private Equity practice groups. Prior to joining the firm, Ambassador Kirk was the first African-American to serve as United States Trade Representative (USTR), serving as principal trade advisor to the President as well as negotiator and spokesperson on trade issues. He was also elected the first African-American Mayor of Dallas, Texas.
Kathryn Kaufman – Executive Vice President
As TCR’s Executive Vice President, Katie applies her years of public and private sector experience in Asia and the United States daily towards the continued successful development of high-speed passenger rail in Texas. Through developing and managing relationships, strategies and opportunities fundamental to TCR’s continued success, Katie’s leadership, oversight and management is critical to all aspects of this dynamic project. Katie directly oversees all aspects of the project’s promotion, including all engineering and design work and overall strategy.
Mike Finnegan – Executive Vice President
As TCR’s Executive Vice President, Mike is the principal liaison between TCR and its technology partners at JRC. Overseeing this critical relationship, Mike manages all elements of TCR’s efforts to deploy JRC’s N700-I Bullet in Texas, including issues related to the system’s compliance with U.S. safety and operations standards. Additionally, Mike oversees key discussions related to project finance and corporate strategy.
Mark Walker – Executive Vice President
As TCR’s Executive Vice President, Mark leads TCR’s planning and promotional activities related to right-of-way, real estate, station development and Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Mark is an executive manager and international affairs specialist with 20 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. Since 2009, Mark has also been a partner in New Magellan Ventures, a venture capital and private equity firm in Washington DC.
Mel Richmond – Chief Operating Officer
Based in TCR’s Washington, DC office, Mel Richmond serves as TCR’s COO. Throughout a 35-year government career, Mel has successfully built, managed and led numerous programs of national importance and myriad high-performing organizations varying from as few as 30 to well over 1500 people.
Shaun McCabe – Vice President, Environmental and Engineering
Shaun is an executive manager, attorney and environmental specialist with over 25 years of experience in the energy and environmental sector. He has served as president and led a turnaround of a Texas-based materials management and disposal company, successfully advocated for changes to state legislation, obtained multi-state and federal agency approvals, licenses and permits and led large capital expenditure environmental-related projects.
Travis Kelly – Vice President, Government Relations
Travis manages TCR’s marketing, state and federal government affairs as well as all local government, public and stakeholder outreach. After working to raise the profile of high-speed rail among elected officials in Texas, Travis is now working to support TCR’s efforts to bring high-speed passenger rail to Texas.
Chris Gibb, Senior Advisor
Chris is a career railwayman in the UK, spending over 30 years in both public and private sector. He retired in 2013 from the role of Chief Operating Officer for Virgin Trains, and is now a Non Executive Director of Network Rail, the company responsible for the UK’s rail infrastructure and major stations, as well as being director and shareholder of CLGR Limited, a provider of advice on rail operations. In his ten years at Virgin Trains he was part of a team that ran a safe operation through a period of major investment in new trains and infrastructure, doubled passenger numbers, grew revenue, and consistently topped customer satisfaction league tables.
Fred Weiderhold – Senior Advisor
Mr. Weiderhold has over 35 years of management experience, recently serving for over 20 years as a statutory Federal Inspector General and senior corporate executive.
Peter Cannito – Senior Advisor
Mr. Cannito is President and Owner of LPC & Associates where he provides railroad and transit industry clients with strategic and technical advice on matters of operations and maintenance, high speed rail, rail safety and security, project development and project management. He previously served as President of MTA Metro North Railroad (MNR), one of the largest commuter rail systems in the U.S.
H Gregory Moore – Senior Financial Advisor
Greg Moore is an accomplished investment banker with over 20 years of experience designing corporate strategy and executing difficult capital markets, partnership, and capital-raising assignments in a variety of industries. Mr Moore’s clients have included AT&T, Home Box Office, Disney, Sony, SBC Communications, Winstar Communications and American Pad & Paper.
David Hagy – Executive Director, Community Outreach
David Hagy has 20 years of experience managing projects, conducting strategic planning, formulating policy and leading outreach for state and local governments and federal agencies. Immediately before joining Texas Central Railway, David was a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton. His work at the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence focused on developing policy to facilitate information sharing between federal, state, and local governments and the private sector.
Chip Werner – Finance Associate
Chip utilizes his years of experience as a leader and strategic planner to assist in the project’s promotion. Focusing on financial activities that support the overall corporate and business strategy, Chip assists TCR’s leadership with the research, coordination and due diligence necessary to advance the project to its next phase.
Jennifer Hu – Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs
Before joining TCR, Ms. Hu held a number of legal and managerial positions in the private and public sectors in Taiwan. Ms. Hu received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University; and a Juris Doctor and a Master of Law in Business and Finance from the George Washington University Law School.
Ms. Hu is a member of the New York Bar. She speaks Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese.
Jason Criss – Project Scheduler
Jason plays a critical role in support of the timely and successful promotion of this project. Responsible for maintaining, revising, and continuing to build the project schedule for Texas Central High-Speed Railway, carefully tracking the numerous ongoing promotional tasks and activities, Jason’s leadership and project scheduling experience is vital to TCR’s success. Jason spent his childhood living in Virginia Beach, VA and grew up believing in the mission of the United States military and served in the U.S. Marines for eight years.
David Benzion – Director, Communications
As Director of Communications, David designs and executes the research, engagement and messaging strategies that inform TCR’s relationships with a wide variety of governmental, media and community stakeholders. He has previously served in similar capacities with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, as well as grassroots organizations dedicated to issues ranging from property tax reform to a strong US-Israel partnership.
Elizabeth Sandefur – Assistant Director
Elizabeth manages TCR’s Washington office schedule and coordinates communication between TCR’s various offices. Elizabeth also assists in political outreach on behalf of TCR by tracking political changes on Capitol Hill and researching options for stakeholder outreach.
Rebecca Cowle – Outreach Coordinator
Rebecca brings her experience in non-profit fundraising and international infrastructural development to assist the Dallas office in liaising with local stakeholders and elected officials. She also actively participates in the development of media content and outreach strategies within the Dallas/Fort Worth community. She also works directly with the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), a 501c3 non-profit based out of Washington D.C., to develop and cultivate student-lead initiatives on Texas college campuses that support TCR’s efforts.
Shera Higgs Thompson – Director, Community Relations
Shera Higgs Thompson has more than 12 years of experience in marketing, communications, media, federal and state government relations, and strong public and private sector relationships and supports TCR’s outreach to community stakeholders and local elected officials.

Domestic Control

TCR is a US company, headquartered in Texas, with offices in Dallas, Houston and Washington DC serving the various needs of the project and close coordination with federal regulatory agencies, cities, counties and communities along the project’s route.

Although we are cooperating to make this project a success, TCR and JRC are two separate, independent, and non-affiliated entities.

JRC’s Life of System Commitment is critical to the project’s success. The operator of the system in Texas will have the benefit of the technical support of the world’s premier high-speed rail operator, thereby ensuring safe, fast, efficient and dependable high-speed rail operations for generations of future Texans.

Following the completion of the environmental impact study, TCR anticipates that privately funded development entities will assume responsibility for the project’s construction and the selection of an operator to manage the operation of the railway. It is anticipated that the development and construction of the system will be financed by a wide-variety of investors.

Private Property

TCR respects and honors the private property rights of our fellow Texans. We are determined that this project be an example of how big things can be done in a transparent way, the right way.

The easiest approach to minimizing landowner impacts is to maximize the use of existing rights of way. Tight curves and a desire to avoid densely populated areas will require occasional deviations from current rail and road alignments, and the need for access to additional land.

Fortunately—and unlike large government projects that have been proposed in the past—this private sector, N700-I based, double-track system:

  • Can be deployed with a very narrow footprint (approximately 80 ft. in width), including security fencing; and
  • Only requires surface access rights, so Texans can retain complete ownership of the land itself, including 100% of all their oil, mineral and gas rights.

Of course any corridor—no matter how narrow—becomes an obstacle if you need to get to the other side.

Through the environmental review process, TCR will work closely with landowners and communities on ways to safeguard their ability to farm, ranch, commute and generally go about their lives. We are committed to finding land-use solutions that work for everyone.

Service Frequency and Route/Station Locations

Nearly 50,000 Texans, sometimes called “super-commuters,” travel back and forth between Houston and Dallas more than once per week. Many others make the trip very regularly. The approximately 240-mile high-speed rail line will offer a total travel time of less than 90 minutes, with convenient departures every 30 minutes during peak periods each day, and every hour during off-peak periods with 6 hours reserved each night for system maintenance and inspection.

TCR respects and values property rights and Texas landowners. In its promotion of a high-speed rail project between Dallas and Houston,TCR is identifying and analyzing potential routes and coordinating with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) during the ongoing environmental review of the project. During this extensive analysis, a strong emphasis is placed on using existing rights of way as much as possible. A number of such rights of way were closely examined, including interstates, freight rail corridors and power and utility corridors, all with the goal to minimize landowner impacts.
Alignments under consideration can be seen here.

Pending environmental reviews, TCR anticipates stations in Dallas and Houston that will provide easy access to each region’s excellent highways, thoroughfares and expansive public transit networks.

The station areas currently under consideration can be seen on page 14 here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 5.40.52 PM

Safety

High-speed rail is the safest way to travel between cities. In fact, millions of passengers ride high-speed rail every day across Europe and Asia.

After 50 years of high-speed rail operation on Japan’s Tokaido Shinkansen system, there have been no fatalities or injuries due to train accidents, because of thorough system maintenance and advanced safety systems.

To learn from that long experience, TCR has consulted with global leaders in the high-speed rail industry to ensure that the latest technologies and highest standards for safety are brought to Texas.

We are working closely with JRC, the premier operator of world-class high-speed passenger rail, including Japan’s Tokaido Shinkansen. The company has turned high-speed rail operation into an exact science.

TRC and JRC are committed to a 100% safety performance standard. JRC’s more than 50-year record of safe high-speed rail operations is unrivaled globally, and we will insist on nothing less here in Texas.

JRC intends to provide a Life of System Commitment to the project in Texas. While JRC is not a financial investor in the project and will not participate as a lead entity at any phase of the project, the project will have the benefit from JRC’s technical support backed up with its experience and HSR know-how at every phase of the project’s design, construction, and operation. This Texas HSR project will have the benefit of JRC’s technical support, thereby helping to ensure a safety and performance record on par with the highly successful Tokaido Shinkansen.

TCR and JRC’s commitment to safety permeates every aspect of the train system’s design, and an expertly designed and executed operation and maintenance regiment, including:

  • Adoption of a complete system that seamlessly integrates signaling, infrastructure design, track work, communications, power supply, operations, maintenance, rolling stock and the system safety plan into a coherent whole;
  • A completely separated track system dedicated solely to high-speed passenger rail service and fully grade-separated infrastructure, precluding any possible encounter with freight traffic, motor vehicles or pedestrians;
  • Use of JRC’s state-of-the-art and proprietary Automatic Train Control (ATC) signaling technology, which will provide equivalent or even better safety levels than those in use in the U.S. today.


21st century train
“21st Century Technology” Fact Sheet

Back to Top ▲