Two companies expressed formal interest Wednesday in building a high-speed-train link between Orange County and Las Vegas.
A German company and a French company each put up an initial $5,000 deposit and announced its intention to bid on the train, which backers hope will link Las Vegas to a station near Anaheim Stadium with trains running at 300 m.p.h. by 1997. Round-trip fares would be $75 to $100, according to recent estimates.
"This is a monumental occasion," said Arnie Adamsen, a Las Vegas city councilman and chairman of the bi-state California-Nevada Superspeed Train Commission. "Everything up to this point has been speculation and theory. Now we have actual dollars involved from the private sector."
The two companies, Transrapid International, a German company bidding in conjunction with the Bechtel Corp., and TGV, a subsidiary of the French national railroad, must submit their proposals along with another $495,000 to the commission by July 15.
In Santa Ana Wednesday, Commission Vice Chairman Don R. Roth, an Orange County supervisor, mailed out requests for proposals to dozens of other firms as well.
Roth previously acknowledged, however, that Transrapid starts out as the front-runner because it has expressed the most interest and has already committed millions of dollars to preliminary project documentation.
Under terms of the bidding procedure, the proposed trains must run at least 180 m.p.h. and firms must show they have the estimated $4 billion in private financing that is needed to build and run the system.
The request for bids followed the earlier selection of the Anaheim area as the Southern California terminus of the proposed train system, which was originally proposed by Las Vegas gambling interests. A spur that would take trains to Palmdale is also tentatively planned.
Adamsen said the Transrapid-Bechtel combine is strengthened in its position as front-runner because, unlike TGV, it plans a magnetically levitated system in which the trains run on a cushion of air above the tracks.
Bechtel officials said in December that the company had already spent $3 million studying the feasibility of the line and was prepared to spend another $12 million to prepare the studies necessary to secure financing for the project.
TGV, however, is the manufacturer of Europe's only operational super-speed train, which travels on traditional rails at speeds approaching 200 m.p.h. Last month the train set a world record for the highest speed on rails, rocketing a train along a section of track in France at a speed of 299.7 m.p.h.