The Brightline inter-city rail has connected Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach since 2018. We rode the train a while back and really enjoyed our experience.
In the Spring of 2019, Brightline announced they were partnering with Virgin and rebranding the train line to Virgin Trains USA. On the same day, it was announced that the newly-named Virgin Trains USA was planning to expand its track to Orlando International Airport. This would mean there’d potentially be rail service between Orlando and Miami. Construction began soon thereafter and MCO’s new Terminal C, which was in the midst of being built (we visited it last summer), was including a rail station.
In the Fall of 2019, Virgin/Brightline confirmed they were having discussions with Walt Disney World regarding the possibility of an expansion of the train from MCO to the world-famous theme park, which is less than 20 miles away (with a longer-term goal of continuing the train on to Tampa). At the time, we wondered if this was bringing us one step closer to the end of Disney’s Magical Express, which is the free bus system Disney offers between the airport and WDW.
Meanwhile, over on the left coast, Brightline had acquired the Xpresswest project, a passenger rail line intended to bring people between Victorville and Las Vegas. They’ve been in the midst of getting financing. The partnership with Virgin was to extend to that train, as well.
Welp, the story of Brightline just took another turn – according to their monthly revenue and ridership report, Brightline is splitting up with Virgin and will go back to using its original Brightline name on the east coast and Xpresswest on the west coast.
Brightline is majority-owned by Fortress Investment Group, who, on July 29th, delivered a termination notice for licensing.
“We will no longer use the Virgin brand following our parent’s termination of its licensing agreement with Virgin Enterprises Limited (together with its affiliates, “Virgin”),” the bond report states. “Virgin has no remaining affiliation with us, or parent or its affiliate.”
The report also said that, “Virgin has disputed the validity of the termination notice.”
Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports that Xpresswest will continue with its plans. Plans for the expansion to Walt Disney World and beyond also appear to still be on the books, as the bond mentioned both.
“The extension of our system from the Orlando airport to the Disney station would also serve as the first phase of a potential future connection to Tampa,” the bond report states. Subject to permitting and Disney negotiations, “we anticipate opening the Disney station shortly after opening the Orlando airport station.”
The MCO station is supposed to open in 2022.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary