Brightline trains at the new Orlando station

Brightline launches Orlando service in Florida

Brightline trains at the new Orlando station Brightline

Private US passenger operator Brightline launched services on its new Florida extension to Orlando this Friday. On 168 miles (270 kilometers) of new tracks, high-speed trains now run between Miami and Orlando, and Brightline has further plans. 

Brightline already offered trains between Miami and West Palm Beach in Florida. It runs on tracks owned by the Florida East Coast Railway. The only privately owned and operated intercity passenger railway operator in the United States started operations in 2018 on that line, and carried over 3 million passengers since then, says the operator.

The company currently serves Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, with Orlando having started service on 22 September 2023. “A big day for Florida”, Brightline chief executive Michael Reininger said at the Miami station before boarding the debut train to Orlando International Airport after 7 a.m. “It’s a moment that marks the beginning of a new industry and a blueprint for expanding rail in America.”

The Orlando station is located at Orlando International Airport and spans three stories. The station has two platforms, which are 1,000 feet long and accommodate a train with four coaches and two locomotives. Taking the Brightline train on the Orlando to Miami route takes around 3,5 hours.

European association ALLRAIL, which represents independent passenger operators, also commented on the launch. “Just like has happened in many places in Europe – such as in Sweden, the Czech Republic and Austria – we are confident that the entry of privately owned new players will benefit the US Intercity rail market as well. More than anything, Brightline’s new service will help get people out of their cars, especially on the congested Interstate 95 Highway on the East Coast of the United States”, it said in a statement.

Brightline's Florida route map
Brightline’s Florida route

On 21 June, the company announced that construction of the route to Orlando was finished, a 6 billion dollar project. It includes 168 miles (270 kilometers) of new tracks, 56 bridges and 3 underpasses. The line is not electrified, and Brightline runs with Siemens Venture trainsets pulled by Siemens Charger diesel-electric passenger locomotives.

“Opening Orlando fulfils our ultimate business model”, says Patrick Goddard, president of Brightline. “We have seen incredible enthusiasm from the business and tourism industries eager to travel between Central and South Florida. As we start service to Orlando for peak holiday seasons, I encourage everyone to check calendars, make plans, visit our website or app and reserve a seat now.”

Brightline has several offers catering to different groups. For corporate passengers, Brightline for Business is a dedicated portal for companies to save with fixed-rate rides for company needs. Starting this fall, students with eligible email domains can receive up to 25 per cent off SMART rides after creating a Brightline account using an active college or university email.

Brightline’s next stop: Tampa

After opening the section to Orlando, the next stop for Brightline is a further extension to Tampa in Western Florida.  However, the private operator does not want to leave it to extend its Florida service. On the other side of the country, it plans to build a new high-speed railway line connecting the states of California and Nevada. Recently, this project received 25 million US dollars in funding from the United States Department of Transportation, bringing the dream one step closer to reality. This project is projected to cost approximately 12 billion dollars.

The proposed 218-mile (about 350 kilometres) high-speed rail system could become one of the first high-speed rail networks in the United States. It would connect Las Vegas and Southern California, with stations in Las Vegas, Apple Valley, Hesperia, and Rancho Cucamonga, and connectivity to the Metrolink regional rail network. Brightline aims to put trains traveling at 186 mph (299 km/h) on tracks by 2028.

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Author: Esther Geerts


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