Virgin Trains, formerly Brightline, has broken ground on a new, privately funded infrastructure project to expand passenger rail service to Orlando. The company is developing 170 miles of new track into the completed intermodal facility in the new South Terminal at the Orlando International Airport as part of its Phase 2 expansion into central Florida.
Chairman of Virgin Trains and co-founder of Fortress Investment Group Wes Edens, along with Virgin Trains President Patrick Goddard, gave remarks at the commemorative ceremony. Dignitaries in attendance included Congresswoman Val Demings, Congressman Darren Soto, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, GOAA Board Chairman Domingo Sanchez and Deputy Administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration Quintin Kendall.
Virgin says that its new service to Orlando is expected to begin in 2022, after which it projects over six million annual riders in Florida and $6.4 billion in direct economic impact to the state. The project is also expected to generate more than 10,000 jobs and over $650 million in federal, state and local tax revenue over an eight-year period, Virgin said.
Expansion between Orlando and south Florida represents a total private investment of $4 billion. In September 2018, Virgin Trains additionally announced that it will construct and operate a new service connecting Las Vegas and Southern California.
In November 2018, Brightline announced a strategic partnership and trademark licensing agreement with the Virgin Group. Executing a phased approach to the rebrand to Virgin Trains in 2019, in April the company unveiled Virgin MiamiCentral as the first element to feature the new Virgin branding.