USA: California High-Speed Rail Authority held a groundbreaking ceremony at noon on January 6 to officially ‘commemorate the start of sustained construction’ of the state’s high speed line. During the event, Governor Jerry Brown and other dignitaries signed a ceremonial section of rail at the site of the future Fresno station.

‘We now enter a period of sustained construction on the nation’s first high-speed rail system - for the next five years in the Central Valley and for a decade after that across California,’ said High-Speed Rail Authority board Chairman Dan Richard. ‘This is an investment that will forever improve the way Californians commute, travel, and live. And today is also a celebration of the renewed spirit that built California.’

CHSRA plans to have trains capable of 320 km/h running between San Francisco and the Los Angeles basin in under 3 h by 2029. The line would eventually be extend to Sacramento and San Diego, totalling 1 280 km with up to 24 stations.

The $985m Construction Package 1 was awarded to a joint venture of Tutor Perini, Zachry Construction and Parsons in June 2013. The design and build contract covers civil works on the 47 km Madera – Fresno segment of the $6bn Initial Operating Section which will run for 480 km between Merced and the San Fernando Valley

Initial works are already underway, and guests at the groundbreaking ceremony were able to see progress with site clearance. Other works underway include the finalisation of project designs, right-of-way purchasing and workforce training and mobilisation.

‘This is truly a historic moment in America, where California once again is leading the way,’ said Andy Kunz, President & CEO of the US High Speed Rail Association. ‘High speed rail will transform the nation as dramatically as the internet did.’