Virgin Trains USA

Associated Press

After Richard Branson announced his Virgin Group would partner with Brightline, Florida’s new higher-speed passenger rail service, a train whisked the British billionaire, VIPs and journalists from Miami to West Palm Beach in just over an hour and then back, with no problems.

That was likely a great relief to railroad staff who have dealt with a higher than average number of deaths involving the sleek, neon-yellow trains, which travel at speeds of up to 79 mph (127 kph) through some of Florida’s most densely populated cities.

Brightline
Caitie Switalski / WLRN

Brightline started test-running trains in 2017. That route now runs from downtown Miami to West Palm Beach. 

Since then, more than 28 people have been struck and killed by Brightline trains. Federal Railroad Administration records go through the end of August. There have been more deaths this fall.

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

Those itching to board a Brightline train in Boca Raton may not have to wait much longer.

Brightline plans to have the station up and running right next door to the city’s library and a few blocks west of Mizner Park by the end of next year. That’s around the same time the high-speed rail line will fully convert its brand to Virgin Trains USA.

MIAMI HERALD

Brightline hopes to buttress its train ridership by tapping into the cruise line industry and two of South Florida’s most prosperous cities. And it expects to more than double its annual ridership through the addition of stations at Boca Raton, Aventura and PortMiami.

“We believe the three new stations ... will contribute over 2 million incremental annual passengers once ridership at these stations ramps up and stabilizes,” according to the rail line’s latest financial filing.

Madeline Fox / WLRN

A public meeting Monday night in Jupiter about the Brightline/Virgin Trains’s northward expansion turned tense as residents voiced concerns about noise, construction closures and unforeseen costs.

Miami-Dade County

A Miami-Dade County citizen transit oversight board has recommended the approval of a publicly-funded Virgin Trains station in Aventura despite lingering concerns the station could attract low ridership at high ticket fees.

The plan involves Miami-Dade’s purchasing a plot of land near Aventura Mall and building a $76.7 station with taxpayer funds. Virgin Trains, formerly Brightline, would cover the operating costs for the service between its existing Downtown Miami station and the new Aventura station.

MIKE STOCKER / South Florida Sun Sentinel

South Florida local governments are finding that if they want a Brightline station, taxpayers could help foot the bill. The most recent example: Aventura, where a station could get a $76 million contribution from Miami-Dade County.

Brightline, the South Florida high-speed rail service, has been in talks with local governments to start building stations in Aventura, as well as in Boca Raton and PortMiami. But unlike the rail line’s initial buildout, where the company paid to build the stations now in operation, taxpayer funds are now a consideration.

Carl Juste / MIAMI HERALD

Miami-Dade may spend $76 million to build a train station near the Aventura Mall to serve the for-profit Virgin Trains USA rail service, using money for Metrorail and buses to create a new transit hub in one of the most congested areas along the coast.

CARL JUSTE / MIAMI HERALD

A bit more time may be soon be added on to your Virgin train trip—but for a select number of cities, access will now be granted to the fastest train in the south.

In a recent filing, Virgin officials said they plan to announce up to three new stations before the end of the year in an effort to boost ridership. While the company is so far declining to name its new city stops, Hollywood may well be on the list.

Flickr Creative Commons

A planned passenger train connecting Miami, Orlando and Tampa is moving forward even as local elected officials raise concerns that the train is missing crucial stops.

Virgin Trains USA is also working on a line that would connect Orlando with West Palm Beach. That groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for June 24.

Virgin Trains USA engineer Adrian Share says the plan is to pick up passengers at the Orlando International Airport, make a stop at the Disney theme parks, and then head to downtown Tampa.

A $1.7 billion high-speed rail system that would connect Tampa to Orlando is expected to begin operating in 2021.

That's according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing released last Friday.