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Five in contention for $500m third phase of California’s high-speed rail line

Five consortiums are to be invited to compete for a contract to design and build the third segment of California’s high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This part of the route runs through the San Joaquin Valley.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board of directors last month approved the formal request for bids for a 35km stretch of line in the area of Bakersfield, about 100km north of Los Angeles.

The five teams in the running for the work include two from Spain: Ferrovial Agroman’s California Rail Builders and Central Valley Connection Builders, a joint venture between FCC Construcción and Corsan-Corviam Construcción.

Madrid-based Grupo ACS, the sixth biggest construction company in the world, is also involved though its Dragados subsidiary, which is in a joint venture with Colorado transport engineer Flatiron.

The final two companies invited to bid are Italian engineer Salini Impregilo, which has teamed up with California’s Security Paving, which has up until now been a roads specialist, and the only entirely American alliance, between Tutor Perini of Los Angeles, Zachry Construction of Texas and Parsons of Pasadena.

Scott Jarvis, the authority’s chief engineer, said contractors that had been prequalified to work on the project would have until mid-October to submit their bids, with a winner to be announced the following month.

The rail authority’s estimate of the cost of the work is between $400m and $500m.

As with the first two construction contracts, the rail authority board approved paying a stipend of up to $2m for each of the losing teams. Dan Richard, the rail authority’s board chairman, told the Fresno Bee that in exchange for the stipend the rail authority would own the intellectual property of that bid.

"If they come in with an alternative technical concept that can save money, we can take that concept and apply it to the winning bidder," Richard said and also use it for future construction segments up and down the state. "We can harvest the best intellectual concepts that those people bring to us. It’s well worth the dollars that we’re paying."

The first contract was awarded in mid-2013 for about $1bn to the Tutor Perini team. This began the work in the middle of the line, at the city of Fresno, and ran south for 47km. The second tranche went to the Dragados consortium in January. This  $1.4bn segment involved a 100km stretch.

Ferrovial Agroman was among the unsuccessful bidders for the first construction contract and withdrew from the competition for the second contract. FCC, Salini Impregilo and Security Paving are new entrants to the programme.

The high-speed rail project was begun in 2008 after Californian voters approved a $9bn bond. When completed in 2028, the line will connect Los Angeles with San Francisco in two hours and 40 minutes. More than $100bn is still needed to finance the entire project.

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