Skift Breaking News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Rail

Brightline Delays Completion of Orlando Passenger Rail Line to 2023

2 months ago

Private passenger rail operator Brightline has pushed back completion of its trunk line between Miami and Orlando to early next year.

Brightline anticipates “substantial completion” — or the end of construction — of the line in the first quarter of 2023, according to a bond prospectus released Wednesday. The delay appears to be due to work on the 129-mile section of track between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, Fla., that will not be complete until early in the new year. That timeline is several months later than the Christmas target for test trains to begin running that Wes Edens, founder and Co-CEO of Brightline owner Fortress Investment, outlined in June.

“You’re going to have the train running [to] Orlando hopefully by Christmas time,” he said at the time.

Brightline cannot begin running trains with paying passengers until construction is complete and after a U.S. Federal Railroad Administration-required testing period, the operator said. It is working with the regulator to “expedite” the latter process.

“We have made tremendous progress, completing 80 percent of construction through the pandemic and subsequent supply chain challenges,” a Brightline spokesperson said. “We’re on track to complete the system at the beginning of 2023.”

Aside from construction of the Orlando trunk line, Brightline has seen positive progress on many of its other initiatives. Passenger revenues from its in service Miami-West Palm Beach line were 147 percent above 2019 levels in the second quarter. And the railroad is on schedule to open two new South Florida stations — Aventura and Boca Raton — in the December quarter. In addition, Brightline has finalized agreements on the alignment of a planned 90-mile extension to Tampa from Orlando, which will include stations at the Orlando Convention Center, near Disney World, and in downtown Tampa.

(Brightline)

Brightline is the only privately-owned passenger rail project under constriction in the U.S.

Rail

Brightline Adjusts Disney World Station Plans For Tampa Extension

3 months ago

Private passenger rail operator Brightline is going it alone on a station near Disney World as part of its planned extension from Orlando to Tampa.

The railroad had been working jointly with Disney on a station at Disney Springs that would have served the entertainment company’s parks. However, Disney surprisingly pulled out of the agreement on Monday, telling the Orlando Sentinel that a change to the planned alignment did not “support a Disney Springs station.” The new alignment, which was agreed to earlier this year, includes a stop at the Orange County Convention Center between the Orlando airport and the planned Disney station.

Brightline’s preferred alignment through Orlando. (Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission)

Brightline said Tuesday that it would build “an alternative station … located near the original Disney Springs site, albeit not on Disney-owned land.” It added that the new alignment, which will be jointly built with the Orlando-area rail operator SunRail, would “provide access to the largest economic and employment centers in Central Florida and offer the best opportunity for the success of Brightline and SunRail.”

The Disney station changes come as Brightline prepares to begin running test trains from Miami to Orlando by the end of the year. Passenger service between Florida’s two largest cities is expected to begin early next year.

Brightline ridership between Miami and West Palm Beach in South Florida is running 20 percent ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

Rail

Brightline Train Ridership 20 Percent Above Pre-Pandemic Levels

3 months ago

Private passenger rail operator Brightline posted ridership up 20 percent in May compared to 2019, its third straight month with passenger numbers above pre-pandemic levels.

That translated to 102,796 passengers on Brightline’s trains that currently connect Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach in South Florida, according to an investor update on Tuesday. Revenues, all important for the private railroad, were up 63 percent compared to May 2019.

(Brightline)

Brightline has seen a “rapid return” of riders since it resumed revenue service after a pandemic suspension last November. And the railroad is likely to see ridership climb even higher when new stations in Aventura and Boca Raton open this fall. A long-awaited extension to Orlando with a stop at the Orlando International Airport is 80 percent complete and expected to be ready for at least test trains by December; revenue service is slated to begin in early 2023. A future extension to Disney World and Tampa is planned.

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