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Texas bullet train clears some land issues ahead of U.S.-Japan talks

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas high-speed rail company announced agreements to withdraw nearly all its pending land survey court cases on Tuesday, days before the leaders of Japan and the United States are expected to discuss a joint jobs package that may include the project.

Texas Central Railways, a private firm seeking to build a 240-mile (386 km) high speed rail link between Dallas and Houston, said it had withdrawn 17 cases concerning access for land surveys to initiate more talks with property owners. It added that only one further land survey case remained.

Land option agreements have been reached on about 30 percent of the parcels needed for the train’s route in a 10-county stretch between North Texas and Houston, the company said. An option agreement for 50 percent of the parcels in a county that will be a midway stop had also been reached, it said.

The United States is one of the few leading developed countries without high-speed rail links. Central Japan Railway Co, a world leader in the field, said it has provided the Texas project technical assistance through a subsidiary.

Japan is putting together a package it says could generate 700,000 U.S. jobs and help create a $450-billion market, to present to U.S. President Donald Trump this week, Japanese government sources familiar with the plans said.

The five-part package, to be unveiled when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Trump on Friday in Washington, envisages investments in infrastructure projects such as high-speed trains, said the sources, who declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The proposal comes after Trump attacked long-time U.S. ally Japan for what he called unfair trade practices.

The Texas high-speed rail project is one of several floated in the United States, including a network in California where construction started in 2015. Texas Central, which has been seeking about $10 billion in funding, said its project will create 10,000 jobs each year of the railway's four-year construction period.

The link between the fourth and fifth most populous U.S. metro areas of Dallas and Houston is expected to use Japanese Shinkansen, or bullet train, cars.

Texans Against High Speed Rail, which opposes the project, said the railway will infringe on private property rights and has called on Texas lawmakers to put the brakes on the project.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Tom Brown)

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