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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Virgin Trains breaks ground on Orlando passenger-rail line

A renderging of the Virgin Trains station at Orlando International Airport.
Photo – Virgin Trains USA


Virgin Trains USA officially broke ground yesterday on an extension of its privately funded passenger-rail line from West Palm Beach to Orlando, Florida.

Formerly Brightline, Virgin Trains is developing 170 miles of new track into the completed intermodal facility located in the new South Terminal at Orlando International Airport as part of the second phase of the expansion into central Florida.

Construction on the infrastructure project, which began a month ago, encompasses four zones, including the Orlando airport area and Virgin Trains maintenance facility, Virgin Trains officials said in a press release.

The project calls for the use of 225 million pounds of U.S. steel, the laying of 490,000 ties, and transport of 2.35 million tons of granite and limestone by 20,000 rail cars. In addition, 2 million spikes and bolts will be installed over the next 36 months.

The groundbreaking ceremony held in Orlando marked a "milestone on the path to reinvent passenger rail in America and clearly demonstrates the leadership role that the private sector can play in revitalizing our nation’s infrastructure,” said Wes Edens, Virgin Trains chairman and co-founder of Fortress Investment Group.

“Virgin Trains service between Orlando and Miami will launch an American passenger rail renaissance," he added. "We expect that this will be the first of many passenger lines in the U.S. that follow this model for connecting city pairs that are too close to fly and too far to drive.”

Expansion between Orlando and south Florida represents a total private investment of $4 billion, Virgin Trains officials said. In September 2018, Virgin Trains additionally announced plans to construct and operate a new service connecting Las Vegas and Southern California.

The new rail line into Orlando expands the passenger-rail service that Brightline built from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and then on to West Palm Beach. The company's original plan called for rail service to be extended to Orlando's airport. Last year, Virgin Trains and Brightline announced a strategic partnership in which the Brightline name would be rebranded as Virgin Trains USA.

To learn more about the growth of passenger-rail service in central and southern Florida, read this month's cover story in Progressive Railroading.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/25/2019