LOS ANGELES (Kyodo) The California High Speed Rail Authority requested expressions of interest in the initial construction segment of California’s high-speed railway on Wednesday.

The request was the first step toward allowing private companies to bid on the already planned first segment as well as the entire 1,300-km-long train system.

Responding to the request, companies can indicate their interest in the initial 200-km segment in central California, or the entire system.

A Japanese consortium of operators, manufacturers and other companies is expected to eventually bid on the projects.

The next steps in the process, in which the authority will request the qualifications proposals of the interested companies, will occur in spring 2011 and late 2011, respectively.

An initial request gauged general private interest in the project in 2008. Nineteen firms comprising construction companies, financial institutions, operators, and equipment and systems manufacturers replied at that time.

Companies and organizations from eight countries, including France, Germany, China, Japan and South Korea, have signed memorandums of understanding indicating mutual cooperation with California on high-speed rail.

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