Brightline ends partnership with Virgin Trains in South Florida
Richard Branson and Brightline train (Getty, Virgin)
Brightline and Virgin Trains are headed on different tracks and have ended their partnership agreement in South Florida. The commuter train service will go back to using the name Brightline, it said in its monthly revenue and ridership report.
Brightline had been operating as Virgin Trains USA, and was expected to complete the rebranding by this summer. The rail service, which operated from downtown Miami to West Palm Beach, with an expansion to Orlando under construction, said it will change its name back to Brightline Trains LLC. It stopped service on March 25, amid the pandemic.
Brightline, which is majority owned by Fortress Investment Group, said in its report to bondholders that its parent delivered a termination notice tied to its license agreement on July 29. “Virgin has disputed the validity of the termination notice,” according to the report.
Billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, visited the downtown Miami station for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that unveiled a new sign at the mixed-use MiamiCentral station in April of last year.
As part of the partnership, first announced in November 2018, Virgin Trains was set to make a minority investment in Brightline.
Virgin Group has struggled amid the pandemic. Earlier this week, Virgin Atlantic Airways filed for bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, as part of a $1.5 billion restructuring plan, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Brightline has three stations completed, including one in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It’s also working on expanding throughout Miami-Dade County. In its monthly report, the company said it made “substantial progress” on negotiations with Miami-Dade for a new county commuter service on its rail corridor.
The pandemic hasn’t been easy on Brightline, which reduced its service in mid-March and then suspended all service before the month’s end. The company laid off 250 employees in March.
Year-to-date, 271,778 passengers rode Brightline this year, amounting to just $6.6 million in revenue, according to the report.
The development of Brightline’s train stations has spurred investment in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Last year, Kushner Companies made its first big real estate play in Fort Lauderdale across the street from the then-Virgin Trains station.
Brightline plans to operate a high-speed rail project between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Write to Katherine Kallergis at [email protected]
Privately run inter-city rail route between Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida.
Not to be confused with Brightline West, the similarly branded project between Las Vegas and Southern California.
Brightline is a privately run inter-city rail route between Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida. Brightline began operating over its current route in January 2018 and the company is currently building an extension to the Orlando International Airport which is expected to enter service in 2022.
As of August 2020[update], it is the only privately owned and operated intercity passenger railroad in the United States. The line was developed starting in March 2012 as All Aboard Florida by Florida East Coast Industries, a Florida real estate developer owned by Fortress Investment Group. Construction began in November 2014 on stations and improvements to tracks owned by the Florida East Coast Railway, which at the start of construction, was also owned by Fortress (it was sold in January 2018).
In late 2018, it was announced that Virgin Group would become a minority investor in the railroad and would provide rights to rebrand the service as Virgin Trains USA. In August 2020 they reverted to the Brightline name, ending the branding deal, claiming that Virgin had not provided the agreed investment money.
Origins and history
In 2012, Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) announced plans to operate passenger rail service between Miami and Orlando. The construction was projected at the time to be $1.5 billion. In March 2013, All Aboard Florida applied for a $1.6 billion Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan, which was administered by the Federal Railroad Administration, and in late 2014, the company applied for a $1.75 billion private activity bond allocation, with proceeds from the bond sale substantially reducing or replacing entirely the amount of the RRIF loan request.
The company received a Finding of No Significant Impact from the Federal Railroad Administration in January 2013, effectively clearing way for work to begin between Miami and West Palm Beach. The Final Environmental Impact Statement was released on August 4, 2015. By the beginning of 2015, the company had started site work at the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations, plus right of way improvements along stretches of the corridor. On November 10, 2015, All Aboard Florida announced that the service would operate under the name Brightline.
Service between Miami and West Palm Beach began on May 19, 2018.
In September 2018, Brightline acquired XpressWest, a private company that intends to connect Las Vegas with Southern California via Victorville, California. Brightline announced the intent of purchasing 38 acres of land near the Las Vegas Strip for a station and following the Interstate 15 corridor from Las Vegas to Southern California.
In November 2018, it was announced that Virgin Group would become a minority investor in the railroad and would provide rights to rebrand the service as Virgin Trains USA.
Two key counties on the coastal route north of the West Palm Beach station have, for various reasons, been fighting the extension of the rail line through Martin and Indian River Counties in court. One of their objections is that Brightline is owned by a private corporation, so they should not be allowed to issue tax-exempt bonds as if they were a municipality. On December 24, 2018, after four years of legal battles, a Federal District Judge threw out a suit by Indian River County that claimed the U.S. Department of Transportation improperly approved the bond allocation, clearing the way for construction of the new rail corridor through the Treasure Coast and Space Coast. On October 5, 2020, the US Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of that decision, ending Indian River County's efforts to stymie development. The County's efforts at a Supreme Court hearing were financed with over $200,000 in private donations in addition to over $4 million in County funds. 
In April 2019, the company secured $1.75 billion in funding for the Orlando extension and said construction would begin right away.
In August 2020, railroad managers announced that Virgin had not provided the agreed investment money and the company would be ending its branding deal, returning to the previous Brightline brand. In March 2021, Virgin sued Brightline for $251.3 million because of the broken contract.
Construction began on the Miami to West Palm Beach section with the laying of new tracks and closure of the temporary surface lots in Government Center, Downtown Miami, in mid 2014. Preliminary work on the Miami station, such as site preparation and demolition, began later in the year. Suffolk Construction was the general contractor for the Miami station. Piles were being set on the four lots of MiamiCentral in early 2015.
On October 29, 2014, work on the Fort Lauderdale station began with the demolition of existing buildings on the site. A groundbreaking ceremony for the West Palm Beach station was held in November 2014. Moss & Associates, of Fort Lauderdale, was the general contractor for the West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale stations.
In January 2015, crews started replacing track throughout the corridor. All Aboard Florida secured leasing of easement rights alongside the Beachline from the Central Florida Expressway Authority for $1.4 million in December 2015.
Construction work on Phase 2, between West Palm Beach and Orlando, officially began in June 2019, with a groundbreaking ceremony at Orlando International Airport. Preliminary work on the corridor began in September 2019, in the area of Jensen Beach and Sebastian, and begin path clearing for construction of the Orlando-to-Cocoa portion in October of that year.
As of May 2019[update], the contractors on the project were the Hubbard Construction Company, Wharton-Smith Inc., The Middlesex Corporation, Granite, and HSR Constructors. These five contractors are responsible for the development of 170 miles of new track into the completed state-of-the-art intermodal facility located in the new South Terminal at the Orlando International Airport (MCO).
Public operations between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale began Saturday, January 13, 2018. Services between West Palm Beach and Miami began on May 19, 2018.
Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic
Brightline suspended operations on March 25, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All train services were completely closed, and the company cut 250 jobs. Construction north to Orlando continued, as well as plans for the upcoming station in Boca Raton. 
In January 2021, the company stated that service would begin again in "late 2021," contrary to their earlier estimate of the third quarter of 2021. The company says that most station and operations staff will be brought back approximately 30-60 days before service resumes. Throughout January 2021 and May 2021, the trains ran with no passengers occasionally in order to test an upgraded corridor between the West Palm Beach and Miami train stations.
The route is made up of the following stations, from north to south:
|Palm Beach County||West Palm Beach||January 13, 2018||1 hr||Palm Tran: 1, 40, 41, & The Bolt 1|
Palm Trolley: Yellow Line
Tri-Rail Commuter Connector: WPB-1
|Broward County||Fort Lauderdale||January 13, 2018||30 min||Broward County Transit (at Central Terminal): 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, 14, 20, 22, 30, 31, 40, 50, 60, 81, US 1 Breeze |
Sun Trolley: Downtown Link, Neighborhood Link, & NW Community Link
Tri-Rail Commuter Connector: FL-1, FL-3
|Miami-Dade County||MiamiCentral||May 19, 2018||–||Metrorail (at Government Center): Green Line, Orange Lines, Downtown Express|
Metromover (at Government Center): Omni Loop, Brickell Loop, Inner Loop
Metrobus: 2, 3, 7, 9, 11, 21, 51, 77, 93, 95, S (119), 120, 207, 208, 246, 277, 500
Broward County Transit (at Government Center): 95, 595
Miami Trolley: Coral Way
Tri-Rail Downtown Miami Link (planned)
As of January 2019[update], between Miami and West Palm Beach, there are 17 round trips Monday through Friday, ten on Saturdays, and nine on Sundays.
During the first two and a half months of introductory service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, ridership totaled 74,780, increasing from 17,800 in January to 32,900 in March 2018. The company itself announced that the ridership has been triple to what had been expected. The forecast provided to bond investors calls for 240,000 passengers per month by 2020, which includes service to Miami, and analyst Fitch Ratings has said that the company could break even at 56% of their ridership forecast.
By the end of 2018 almost 600,000 passengers had ridden the train, and the line welcomed its 1 millionth rider in August 2019.
Ridership by year
The three South Florida stations were designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in association with Zyscovich Architects. Rockwell Group designed the interiors. All three have adjacent parking garages that offer parking at the rate of $6 per day, effective July 1, 2018.
Main article: MiamiCentral
The downtown Miami station, known as MiamiCentral (not to be confused with Miami Central Station, now known as Miami Intermodal Center, near Miami International Airport), spans 9 acres (3.6 ha) located just east of Miami-Dade County Hall and includes 3 million square feet (280,000 m2) of mixed-use development with residential, office and commercial, and a retail concourse. The station connects Brightline with the Metrorail, Metromover, County bus and City of Miami trolley systems. The new Brightline station connects the following transit modes: 2 Metrorail stations, 2 Metromover stations, Metrobus, and the future Tri-Rail station. This increases connections to activities and tourist destinations, including the Performing Arts Center, Bayside Market and Bayfront Park. Service to Miami began on May 19, 2018.
Main article: Fort Lauderdale station (Brightline)
The Fort Lauderdale station is located at NW 2nd Avenue between Broward Boulevard and NW 4th Street. The four-acre station site has a 60,000 sq ft (5,600 m2) station and platform. The Brightline train service in Ft. Lauderdale connects to the Sun Trolley and Broward County Transit system. Brightline also owns about three acres of land to the east of the Florida East Coast Railway corridor, where there are plans to build a transit-oriented development.
West Palm Beach
Main article: West Palm Beach station (Brightline)
The West Palm Beach station is located between Datura and Evernia Streets and to the west of Quadrille. The two-acre station site has a 60,000 sq ft (5,600 m2) station and platform that connect with the neighborhood's existing vehicular, trolley and pedestrian networks and establish links to the Tri-Rail, Palm Tran Downtown Trolley and Amtrak West Palm Beach station.
Planned and proposed routes and destinations
Main article: Orlando International Airport Intermodal Terminal
In 2017, the new Orlando International Airport Intermodal Terminal at Orlando International Airport was opened. Brightline will terminate at this station once the 170-mile (270 km) Orlando Extension track is built. Service is projected to begin in 2022, with trains travelling up to 125 mph (201 km/h) and a travel time of approximately three hours from Orlando’s airport to Miami.
In November 2020, Brightline and Walt Disney World Resort announced an agreement to build a station in Disney Springs as a part of its Tampa extension, providing a high-speed rail connection to Walt Disney World Resort and the surrounding areas. While the exact location has not been announced, the proposed station would include a lobby on the ground level, passenger facilities and an upper level train platform. In February 2020, Brightline commenced engineering and design work for the proposed project. The high-speed rail corridor between Disney Springs and Orlando International Airport will cost $1 billion and travel alongside Florida State Road 417. Passenger service is expected to start by 2026.
As of September 2019[update], Brightline is in negotiations with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to lease right-of-way along the Interstate 4 corridor. Brightline was the only bidder to submit a proposal to construct an intercity rail line along Interstate 4, which has been designated for federally funded high-speed rail. This would be utilized for an extension of the line from Orlando International Airport to Tampa. Potential stops along this route are the SunRailMeadow Woods station, Walt Disney World Resort, and Lakeland. The current[when?] deadline for the negotiations between Central Florida Expressway Authority, FDOT, and Virgin was March 31, 2020. In September 2020, the railroad entered into a memorandum of understanding with a local developer to potentially construct the terminal station in Ybor City.
As part of the initial construction for Brightline, All Aboard Florida said it was considering an extension to Jacksonville, Florida.
Main article: Boca Raton station (Brightline)
In 2019, Brightline operations sent a letter to the city of Boca Raton about the possibility of adding their city as an infill station along the Florida route. Virgin proposed constructing the station and rail infrastructure while the city would cover access and zoning requirements and costs. In December 2019, Boca Raton was officially chosen as a station site with the station, to be connected to Mizner Park via pedestrian bridge. The station is scheduled to be completed in 2022.
Main article: Aventura station
In October 2019, Miami-Dade County allocated $76 million to build Aventura station at the Aventura Mall in Aventura, Florida, between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. At the time of the announcement, the projected opening date was October 2020. Groundbreaking on the station occurred in September 2020, with a new projected completion date in fall 2021.
In October 2019, Brightline announced plans to start building a station in PortMiami in 2020.
Brightline has expressed interest in adding a station on Florida's Treasure Coast and another on the Space Coast between West Palm Beach and Orlando. In August 2018, the company asked cities in the area to submit proposals for station locations. Fort Pierce, which last had passenger train service on July 31, 1968, has expressed interest. The city of Stuart has also indicated that it will be negotiating for a potential station.
Brightline has indicated that Stuart is the most likely location for a Treasure Coast station, and that Cocoa would make the most sense for a Space Coast station, both because of proximity to Port Canaveral's cruise lines as well as for positioning for future expansion to Jacksonville. Neither station has been committed in writing, and both are pending market studies, as completion of the line to Orlando is the top priority for Brightline.
- Commuter rail
In 2020, it was revealed that Brightline was planning a commuter rail service to complement their existing service. Referred to as the Northeast Corridor, trains would run between Miami Central and Aventura with five stations between. The railroad and the Miami-Dade County Commission agreed to access fees in November 2020. The estimated cost for full buildout of the line is $325 million. Operations are expected to start as early as 2024.
The following year, the Florida Department of Transportation and Broward County executed a memorandum of understanding to implement a passenger transportation system along the FEC corridor. Plans call for a 27-mile (43 km) commuter rail route starting at Aventura station in the south and running as far north as Deerfield Beach. Service could start in 2028.
Main article: Brightline West
On September 18, 2018, Fortress Investment Group announced that it would acquire XpressWest, a venture capital proposal to build a privately funded high-speed rail passenger train from Apple Valley, California to Las Vegas, Nevada from hotel developer Marnell Corrao Associates. When Fortress subsequently entered into its partnership with Virgin Group in 2019, it was announced that the newly formed consortium will build and operate XpressWest when it opens. In September 2020, Fortress Investment Group renamed the project Brightline West.
Despite funding difficulties, Brightline currently plans on constructing the 180-mile (290 km) long Brightline West track by 2023. They plan on carrying passengers at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour (322 km/h) for an 85-minute trip. Trains on this line will be fully electric and run alongside Interstate 15. Fortress' Wes Edens has stated that Brightline’s service is modeled off of Eurostar's Paris-to-London commute. Its coach design includes white-and-blue interiors, roomy seating, and free Wi-Fi.
Upon full buildout of the Miami–Orlando route, trains will operate at up to 79 mph (127 km/h) between Miami and West Palm Beach, up to 110 mph (177 km/h) between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, and up to 125 mph (201 km/h) between Cocoa and the Orlando International Airport. A future extension to Tampa from Orlando would, if constructed, also allow trains to operate at up to 125 mph (201 km/h). It will be one of the few rail services in the United States to approach the high-speed rail standard set by the International Union of Railways of 250 km/h (155.3 mph) for new rail or 200 km/h (124.3 mph) for existing lines.
The planned travel time between Miami and Orlando is 3 hours. Driving between the two takes 3+1⁄2 hours using the Florida's Turnpike, and 3+3⁄4 hours using the I-95/SR 528 freeways along the planned train route via Cocoa. The flight time between MIA and MCO is one hour.
To meet the 3 hour schedule, trains will have to operate with an overall average speed of 80 miles per hour (130 km/h), which is similar to the overall average speed of the AmtrakAcela Express operating on the Northeast Corridor between New York City and Washington, D.C.
Pre-existing Miami–Cocoa Corridor upgrades
The project calls for more than $1.5 billion in upgrades to the rail corridor between Miami and Cocoa. The company is double tracking the corridor, improving signaling systems, and upgrading every grade crossing to meet the highest applicable safety standards set by FDOT and Federal Railroad Administration. In January 2013, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Miami–Cocoa phase of the project, effectively clearing the way for work to begin. Part of the corridor safety upgrades includes installing positive train control (PTC), which will enhance Brightline's ability to monitor and control train movements safely.
Responding to citizen concerns about increased noise from additional horns, the company stated that it will work with local communities to implement quiet zones where possible. Federal law requires quiet zone requests to originate from the local authority that has jurisdiction over the roadway, not the railroad company.
In August 2014, the company announced a partnership with the Broward and Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organizations to implement quiet zones between the city of Hallandale Beach and 15th Street in West Palm Beach. In December 2014, the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization approved funding to construct quiet zones between PortMiami and the northern Miami-Dade County line. The quiet zones were originally planned to be in place when Brightline becomes operational between Miami and West Palm Beach by the end of 2017. Brightline started service on January 11, 2018, but various delays in constructing the quiet zones have stretched their in-service date to sometime in March.
On May 14, 2018, quiet zones went into effect in West Palm Beach, in Lake Worth on May 21 and in Boca Raton on May 30. The "no train horn" areas apply to all trains, freight and passenger. Quiet Zones remove the legal duty of a train engineer to sound the horn. Train engineers do still use the horn in quiet zones for emergency situations (such as a trespasser fouling the tracks).
The FEC rail corridor includes a number of fixed-span bridges that will be replaced as part of the project. Most do not require United States Coast Guard (USCG) permitting as they do not span significant navigable waterways and clearances will not change. Twelve other bridges—St. Johns River, Eau Gallie River, St. Sebastian River, Crane Creek, Turkey Creek, West Palm Beach Canal, Boynton Canal, Middle River (both the North and South Fork), Oleta River, Arch Creek and Hillsboro Canal—will require permitting by the USCG. In addition, the project calls for significant investment and upgrades to three movable bridges: St. Lucie, Loxahatchee, and New River. These improvements will ensure that bridge mechanical systems for raising and lowering the bridge spans are either fully upgraded or replaced. The company has stated that, prior to it becoming operational, it will start to regularly notify mariners of scheduled bridge closings via the internet, smart phone application and countdown signage on the bridges to enable mariners to have real-time information to decrease wait times at each bridge. Also, the company will station a bridge tender at the New River bridge.
During the first six days of operation, two people were killed in separate incidents at railroad crossings along the line, after they attempted to cross the tracks while the gates were down.
During the first three months of operation, four people were killed by a Brightline train when they crossed the tracks illegally, with an additional three persons injured.
The 11th fatality associated with a Brightline train occurred on January 1, 2019, after a pedestrian was struck and thrown into a canal. As of November 16, 2019, according to the advocacy group Alliance for Safe Trains, a total of 34 people had been killed in incidents involving Virgin Trains locomotives in Florida, although those include what are likely to have been suicides.
In December 2019, the AP produced a story based on FRA data that Virgin Trains USA had the worst per-mile death rate of the nation's 821 railroads. It stated that none of the deaths were the fault of the company.
The proposed line between Cocoa and Orlando is the only segment that does not have existing track or right-of-way owned by FEC. Originally, the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) believed it could accommodate building new tracks for the project within the BeachLine Expressway's 300-foot (91 m) wide right-of-way. This segment of the proposed line will operate at speeds of up to 125 mph (201 km/h).
CFX began negotiations with Deseret Ranch, which owns the land just south of the BeachLine, to purchase additional land in order to widen the right-of-way. According to a pact made on July 16, 2013, CFX tentatively agreed to pay $12 million for an extra 200 ft (61 m) along the 22-mile (35 km) BeachLine corridor between Cocoa and Orlando International Airport. In early October 2013, CFX and All Aboard Florida reached a formal purchase agreement for the land required for the right-of-way. Although construction was slated to originally begin in early 2015, construction of the segment started on May 22, 2019.
Also in October 2013, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) board approved development of a station and maintenance facility on Orlando International Airport property, as well as an easement to build track between the station and the mainline to the coast.
Brightline is constructing two maintenance facilities. One is a Running Repair Facility, located north of the West Palm Beach station at 601 15th Street, designed for maintenance and minor repair work that does not require the train to be removed from service. The 12-acre site has been under construction since at least January 2016. The land includes vintage industrial buildings that will be renovated for the workshop. The facility, named "workshop b", will include a maintenance pit for access to the underside of the trains and will be able to handle four 10-car train sets.
More extensive maintenance/repair will be accomplished at a second site near the Orlando International Airport Intermodal Terminal.
All Aboard Florida ordered five Siemens trainsets in 2014. Each Brightline trainset initially consisted of four passenger coaches, with a Siemens Charger SCB-40 diesel-electric locomotive on each end. The coaches, with interiors designed by the LAB at Rockwell Group, feature ergonomic seating, Wi-Fi, level boarding, and meet ADA compliance standards. Each trainset holds 248 passengers. Working with All Aboard Florida, the LAB also conceived the Brightline name, brand platform, and visual identity. The entire trainset, including passenger cars, were manufactured by Siemens in its solar-powered plant in Florin, California. Once the route to Orlando is in operation, the trainsets will be expanded to seven coaches, and five more complete trainsets will be purchased. The first of five trainsets departed the Siemens factory on December 8, 2016, and arrived in West Palm Beach on December 14. The fifth trainset arrived in South Florida in October 2017.
The trains offers two classes of service, with one "Select" coach and three "Smart" coaches on each trainset. "Select" offers 2x1 and four-to-a-table seating with 50 21-inch (530 mm)-wide seats per car and complimentary snacks and beverages, while the slightly less expensive "Smart" fare coaches seat 66 with narrower 19-inch (480 mm)-wide seats, with snacks and beverages available for purchase. Each trainset is able to hold 248 passengers.
- ^"All Aboard Florida plan announced". Railway Gazette. March 28, 2012. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
- ^"Quiet zones plans for FEC tracks get boost, as All Aboard Florida picks up costs for some safety upgrades". Palm Beach Post. September 19, 2013.
- ^"All Aboard Florida seeks federal loan". Orlando Sentinel. March 18, 2013. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
- ^"All Aboard Florida shocker: Rail seeks private financing". Palm Beach Post. October 8, 2014.
- ^"High-speed rail service heads south". Florida Today. Associated Press. July 9, 2014.
- ^"All Aboard Florida Final Environmental Impact Statement". Federal Railroad Administration. August 4, 2015.
- ^"All Aboard Florida unveils branding of its rail service". The Real Deal Miami. November 9, 2015. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
- ^ abcdefRoustan, Wayne K. (May 19, 2018). "All aboard as Brightline launches fast train service to Miami". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
- ^ abcdJacoby, Kenny (May 19, 2018). "Brightline's inaugural West Palm-to-Miami trip draws crowd, celebration". Retrieved May 20, 2018.
- ^"Brightline to Build Express Intercity Passenger Rail Connecting Southern California and Las Vegas" (Press release). Brightline. September 18, 2018. Archived from the original on September 18, 2018. Retrieved September 18, 2018.
- ^Cohen, Howard (November 16, 2018). "Brightline forms a partnership with Virgin. A name change is coming soon". Miami Herald.
- ^"Brightline spending reaches $7.2 million in Martin, Indian River counties, but for what?". TCPalm (Treasure Coast Newspapers). Retrieved November 12, 2018.
- ^Rosenberg, Arnie (December 25, 2018). "Judge tosses out Indian River County's lawsuit against All Aboard Florida". TCPalm.
- ^"Florida's Brightline clears legal hurdle, gets financing extension". Bond Buyer.
- ^Soloman, Joshua (October 5, 2020). "U.S. Supreme Court won't hear Indian River County's appeal of Brightline lawsuit". TCPalm.
- ^Forester, Thomas (April 4, 2019). "Brightline secures funding to Orlando, plans to open Walt Disney World station". WPEC.
- ^Lyons, David (April 4, 2019). "Virgin Trains lines up funding for expansion to Orlando". Sun Sentinel.
- ^"Virgin Trains finally set to launch construction of West Palm Beach-to-Orlando link". miamiherald.
- ^"Florida Luxury Train Cuts Branson Ties, Drops Virgin Name". Bloomberg Media. August 7, 2020.
- ^Ohnsman, Alan (August 7, 2020). "High-Speed Rail Startup Brightline Ends Alliance With Richard Branson's Virgin". Forbes. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
- ^Johnston, Katie (August 11, 2020). "Brightline Trains Ends Partnership With Richard Branson's Virgin Group". WFOR-TV. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
- ^Lyons, David. "Virgin sues Brightline for $251.3 million over marketing divorce". sun-sentinel.com. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
- ^"Virgin sues Brightline for $US 251.3m over naming contract". International Railway Journal. March 9, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
- ^Chardy, Alfonso (August 25, 2014). "Work begins — finally — on Miami-to-Orlando fast train". Miami Herald. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
- ^Robbins, John Charles (September 27, 2016). "Brightline passenger rail service 65% built". Miami Today. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
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Virgin will be the fastest train ever in the southern U.S. when Orlando service starts
When Virgin Trains, then known as Brightline, opened up its Miami Central station a year ago launching express service from downtown Miami to West Palm Beach, it represented a milestone in the future of travel.
Last week, company representatives said an even bigger milestone is coming down the tracks, once its planned West Palm-to-Orlando route is complete.
In a presentation given Thursday to the Central Florida Expressway Authority, Virgin confirmed that a portion of the route will reach a top speed of 125 miles per hour.
Virgin Trains breaks ground on West Palm-to-Orlando extension
That would make it the fastest train ever built in the southern Unites States, and, as the Orlando Sentinel first noted, only a few gasps behind the northeast corridor's Acela, which tops out at 150 miles per hour.
All told, a trip from Miami Central Station to Orlando International will take approximately three hours, shaving about a half hour off drive time.
The company will use existing Florida East Coast track to snake up the east coast before hitting CFX's existing transit corridor in southeast Orange county. There, it will lay down all-new track as it turns west near Cocoa Beach and travels adjacent to FL-528 to Orlando International, said Virgin Executive Vice President of Rail Infrastructure Adrian Share.
Construction on the extension began in Orlando in May; an official ribbon cutting is now slated for Monday, Share said. Plans to extend the route to Tampa, as well as Orlando venues like the area around Disney, remain in preliminary phases.
Company officials reaffirmed no state funds are being used to finance the $4 billion, 167-mile extension, which is set to begin service in 2022. The company did access federal tax breaks in issuing more than $2 billion in bonds for the project.
Meanwhile, Share said, ridership figures remain on track — despite a slide in its passenger count and revenues. In its most recent investor filing, covering the month of April, Virgin said it carried 71,308 passengers, generating total revenues of approximately $1.8 million, down from 91,903 passengers and $2.3 million in revenues in March. The company said commuter and frequent business-traveler ridership was up, while leisure-oriented ridership was lower "due to lower seasonal event activity."
Share also said the company is still ramping up its ridership.
Share hinted that Virgin plans to expand beyond Florida and Las Vegas, where it has also purchased the rights to a rail corridor extending from Sin City to the outskirts of Los Angeles.
"Our approach to these projects is to look for candidates that have city centers that are too long to drive and too short to fly," Share said. "We look at an approach where we can build smartly, affordably, and ... maximize the use of existing corridors."
Brightline plans to create high-speed passenger rail lines connecting Orlando to Miami — here's how
The news of the privately held passenger rail company suddenly resurrecting plans left some confused. Florida Republicans have tried to kill the link multiple times, but this fully privatized rail proposal has, so far, not incurred their wrath.
Let's backtrack a bit to get a better understanding of this rail company. Brightline launched in 2012when parent company Fortress Investment Group began looking at ways to maximize income on their Florida East Coast Railway right-of-way. Fortress would eventually sell off Florida East Coast Railway, but held on to the coveted inter-city passenger rail system.
A short dalliance with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group saw Brightline plan to rebrand as Virgin Trains USA, but that partnership was canceled in August. While the breakup's official reasoning was never given, the high cost of licensing the Virgin name and Virgin’s in-house cost-cuttingboth likely played parts.
The South Florida-based Brightline is already seeing success with its West Palm Beach-to-Miami service. New lines connecting Orlando International Airport to Miami are now under construction with a planned 2022 opening. Unlike nearly all of the South Florida line, this 170-mile Orlando leg has 35 miles of new train right-of-way, built alongside the Beachline Expressway.
The proposed Tampa connection is similar to this stretch, with all of the track being newly built, and mostly using existing high-speed-rail right-of-way along the median of I-4. Brightline plans to have a stop at Walt Disney World. Previous proposals also had a station in the Lakeland area penciled in, though it's unclear if Brightline plans to do the same.
Brightline’s Orlando to Tampa connection will have a small segment of existing track right-of-way. Part of the track could possibly be used by SunRail, allowing it to connect directly to Orlando International Airport.
- Photo via Brightline/Virgin Trains USA
These custom-built, limited-access rights-of-way address many of the issues that Brightline has faced in South Florida, where it ranks as one of the deadliest railroadsin the nation. Many of these accidents occur on railroad crossings, where trains cross surface streets. These have also proven problematicfor Central Florida’s SunRail, which like Brightline, used existing rail rights-of-way that frequently cross over surface streets.
Like SunRail, Brightline typically uses its stations as a booster for local development projects, creating dense multi-transit communities near the stations. For SunRail, this has worked at some stations, such as in Longwoodand downtown Orlando, but others are still years awayfrom having mixed-use, transit-oriented developments within walking distance. But Brightline has already started purchasing propertynear its proposed Tampa station.
The Miami to Orlando International Airport service should launch by late next year, while the Orlando-Tampa route is expected to break ground in 2022, with an opening date of 2025. Meanwhile, the Vegas to LA route has been postponed until the market is better suited for bond sales, which are a primary funder of the project.
- Photo via Brightline/Twitter
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Florida map route trains virgin
Virgin Trains' latest plans will bring Orlando visitors directly to PortMiami, while leaving Port Canaveral behind
- Photo via Virgin
- Virgin Group founder Richard Branson
Linking the private higher-speed rail system to PortMiami, the busiest cruise port in the world, should make the train a more appealing option for many cruise passengers. The new PortMiami station should open just in time for Virgin’s new cruise line, Virgin Voyages, which will launch next year.
New stations in Aventura and Boca Raton are also slated to open in the coming years, but the most significant addition will come in 2022, when the Orlando link opens with a station in the bottom floor of the brand-new, multi-billion-dollar Terminal C at Orlando International Airport.
The 170-mile Orlando addition will connect to the existing system, which currently stretches between Miami and West Palm Beach. Virgin Trains USA claims that it will be the “only intercity rail system in the U.S. to connect an international airport directly to a major cruise port.” They pointed to the ease with which Central Florida visitors will be able to access PortMiami.
Governor Rick Scott blocked the high-speed train that would’ve provided a safe, mass transit option along one of the deadliest interstates in the nation.“This is a first-of-its-kind train to port station that will connect the cruise capital of the world with a car-free option for millions of cruisers looking to start their vacation a little earlier,” said Patrick Goddard, president of Virgin Trains. “This is a tremendous partnership and infrastructure investment between PortMiami, Miami Dade County and Brightline that will increase mobility, take cars off the road and provide our state’s visitors an easier way to get around.”
Government officials in South Florida were also not hesitant in discussing their focuson attracting Central Florida visitors. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez explained, “This private-public partnership [between Virgin Trains USA and PortMiami] is a great opportunity to expand PortMiami’s connectivity to visitors traveling from central Florida and for Miami-Dade County residents to get to the Orlando area in a quick, enjoyable way.”
The PortMiami station should cause some concern for Port Canaveral, which is in constant competition for passengers with Florida’s other cruise ports. Brevard County, where Port Canaveral is located, has been more hesitantthan other counties in embracing Virgin Trains USA. That hesitation and lack of planning for a station now means that no station will be developed in the county for at least five years after the new Orlando link opens. According to Virgin Trains USA officials, it will be at least 2027 before a Brevard County station will open, if one ever does.
- Photo via Brightline/Virgin Trains USA
As of now, Virgin Trains USA has no proposals to build the two stations that the former system would’ve had in Lakeland nor the station at the Orange County Convention Center. Out of those three stations, the only one that has been mentioned as a possibility is the Orange County Convention Center station. An alignment that includes that station would be significantly more costly but is being advocated for by NBCUniversal, due to its proximity to their new south campus.
Tampa’s station will be near both the Port of Tampa and the Hard Rock Casino. This could cause even more competition for Port Canaveral, where casino cruises remain popular. Tampa’s cruise port is at a disadvantage, due to the restrictive Skyway Bridge route into the port that blocks many of today’s larger cruise ships. PortMiami has no such limits and is regularly home to record-breaking cruise ships, meaning that the new rail system could potentially hurt Tampa’s cruise industry as well, though possibly not as much as Port Canaveral’s.
- Hyperloop One/Facebook
- The Virgin Hyperloop One route between Orlando and Miami via Hwy 27
Virgin Trains USA is also working ona high-speed passenger rail system linking Las Vegas to California, another Obama era project that was previously blocked by Republicans.
It’s still unknown what impact the new Virgin Trains USA system linking Orlando to PortMiami and Tampa will have on Port Canaveral, but it’s clear that come 2022, things will look dramatically different for Central Florida’s closest cruise port, and things will only become more complicated in the years after.
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Tags: Virgin Trains USA, Brightline, Florida, rail, commuter, Richard Branson, light rail, freight, ImageSours: https://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2019/11/04/virgin-trains-latest-plans-will-bring-orlando-visitors-directly-to-portmiami-while-leaving-port-canaveral-behind
Brightline is a high-speed inter-city railway line under construction between Miami and Orlando, Florida, US. Estimated to cost $4bn, the project is being implemented by All Aboard Florida (AAF), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries.
The first phase of the line between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach became operational in January 2018.
The inter-city passenger rail service will be served by five trains namely BrightGreen, BrightOrange, BrightBlue, BrightRed and BrightPink.
Brightline high-speed rail line phase one routes and stations
The high-speed rail project is being executed in two phases. The first phase connects Miami with West Palm Beach through Fort Lauderdale.
The total length of the line will is 378km. Existing lines will be used for 314km of the line and the remaining 64km will be new.
A new station covering 479,160ft² is being built in the middle of downtown Miami Central. The station will feature residences, offices, unique retail offerings, central fare and entertainment.
The Fort Lauderdale station occupies an area of 60,000ft² featuring a comfortable lounge. It also has a new 218,204ft² park-and-ride facility with a 576-vehicle capacity.
The West Palm Beach station covers an area of 60,000ft² with scope for new development.
Brightline high-speed rail project phase two
The second phase of the Brightline high-speed rail project will extend the railway line from West Palm Beach to Orlando. It will include the development of 170 miles (273.5km) of new track between South Florida and Orlando.
The construction of phase two began in May 2019 and service is expected to begin in 2022. Phase two will create more than 10,000 jobs and will have an annual ridership of more than three million.
The Orlando station is currently under construction at Orlando International Airport’s South Inter-modal Centre (ITC). It will also provide connections to future SunRail and automated people mover (APM) projects, which are under development.
Phase three details
The third phase of the Brightline high-speed rail project is still in the planning stage. It will include an 85-mile (136.7km) rail line between Orlando International Airport and Tampa. Trains on the line are expected to travel at a speed of 125mph (201.16km/h).
Brightline high-speed rail line construction
Construction on the project began with the laying of new tracks between the Miami and West Palm Beach section in mid-2014.
The existing building located on the site of the Fort Lauderdale station was demolished and construction on the new station commenced in October 2014. The external structure of the station was completed in September 2017 while the interior was finished in the second half of 2017.
Construction on the West Palm Beach station began in November 2014 and was completed in the second half of 2017.
Other track works and construction at Miami Central station are scheduled for completion by the end of 2020.
Construction of phase two includes four zones with zone one including 70 acres of development near the Orlando International Airport and the Virgin Trains’ vehicle maintenance facility located south of the airport.
Zone two includes a 3.5-acre section at the centre of the airport, while zone three includes rail alignment of 35 miles (56.3km) along Highway 528 corridor between OIA and Cocoa.
Zone four includes the upgrade of 129 miles (207.6km) of existing Class IV track to Class VI, which will allow trains to operate at speeds of up to 110mph (177km/h).
Rolling stock operating on the line
The Brightline trains feature level boarding and utilise automated retractable platforms. The platforms extend up to 12in to enable easy access for disabled passengers.
The trains feature 32in-wide aisles, which provide enough space for wheelchairs and prams. The trains also feature wide windows and free Wi-Fi with convenient plug sockets.
The coaches provide two different experiences with one select and three smart coaches. The select coaches offer 21in-wide seats and complimentary beverages and snacks, while the smart coaches feature 19in-wide seats.
The Brightline trains also feature luggage towers, bike racks, pet carriers and restrooms with a touch-less flush facility.
Each train is composed of two diesel-electric locomotives and four stainless-steel coaches. The locomotives are powered by 16-cylinder Cummins QSK95 engines with a maximum power output of 4,000hp each. The Brightline trains run at a maximum speed of more than 200km/h.
The engine meets the requirement of EPA Tier 4 standards, produces ultra-low emissions and noise, and consumes minimum fuel.
Contractors involved with Brightline high-speed rail project
All Aboard Florida placed a contract with Siemens USA for five train sets in 2014. The first trainset was delivered in December 2016, while the last was handed over in December 2017.
Cummins received the contract to supply the QSK95 engines for the locomotives. The interiors of the train sets were designed by the Rockwell Group.
GE Transportation was contracted to provide signalling system for the high-speed rail service, in April 2015.
All Aboard Florida contracted Suffolk Construction for the pre-construction and construction management services for the nine-acre multimodal station being built in downtown Miami.
The contract for building the Fort Lauderdale station was awarded to Adache Group and Moss & Associates.
Brightline has partnered with Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) for the supply of clean biodiesel to fuel the trains. FPL will supply more than two million gallons of biodiesel-blended fuel a year under the two-year contract.
The contractors involved in phase two are Wharton-Smith, The Middlesex Corporation, Hubbard Construction Company, Granite and HSR Constructors.
Brightline high-speed rail benefits
The new express service will offer an alternative mode of transportation for 50 million passengers, who currently travel by air or road between Orlando and South Florida. It will enable passengers to travel from downtown Miami to downtown Fort Lauderdale in just 30 minutes, Miami to West Palm Beach in 60 minutes, and Miami to Orlando in approximately three hours.
The project is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs during construction, and an average of 5,000 jobs a year when operational.
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