China may have edge in California’s bullet train race

SAN FRANCISCO Chinese state firms are poised to be strong contenders in the race to make high-speed trains that will sprint between Los Angeles and San Francisco, part of a $68 billion project to bring the service to the United States for the first time.  While “bullet train” manufacturers from Germany, Japan, South Korea, and France are expected to be among those jockeying for the estimated $1 billion train contract, China’s ability to offer low prices and hefty financing appear to make it the one to beat, say lobbyists and industry insiders.  Lacking experience in the technology, California must turn to foreign firms to build the trains – albeit domestically and with American workers – setting off a geopolitical race to grab a foothold in the nascent U.S. high-speed rail industry.  Germany’s Siemens is expanding its rail factory in Sacramento to incorporate a “high-speed lot.” Japan has voiced its interest, boasting a record of no fatal accidents in over 50 years operating high-speed trains. France’s Alstom, which produces rail cars in upstate New York, is also a potential contender. Awarding a piece of America’s most ambitious and expensive infrastructure project in decades to strategic rival China – over a long-term ally such as Japan – would be prone to political controversy. But a Chinese bid with generous financing attached could prove hard to resist for California’s government, which has so far secured only a fraction of the total funding needed for a project that would see trains speeding at over 200 mph (322 kph) to connect the state’s biggest cities in under three hours. […]