Virgin Rail Is Out And Brightline Is Back In High-Speed Disney World Rail Project
Among the ups and downs of the COVID-19 crisis, Brightline, one of the companies behind the High Speed rail line that will connect South Florida to Orlando and by extension Walt Disney World has had a big shake-up. According to the company, Virgin Trains is officially out due to financial troubles and the Brighline name is coming back and will be firmly attached to the project.
During a financial report on Friday, the company also said that a station actually at Walt Disney World ay open soon after service launches to Orlando International Airport. If you’ve been following along with MickeyBlog you know that a high-speed train began operating in South Florida back in 2018 and though services are temporarily suspended, it is expect that a route to Orlando airport will be ready in 2022.
This is bad news for Virgin who has a train, plane and cruise boat dynasty over in the UK. The company run by Sir Richard Branson has been plagued with financial difficulties since the coronavirus crisis. According to a recent piece in the Orlando Sentinel, Brightline confirmed the departure saying, “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 report also states. “Virgin has no remaining affiliation with us, or parent or its affiliate.”
There is some good news in the bond report, namely that the proposed extension from Orlando to Tampa with a stop at Disney World is continuing. The report states, “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.” It continues that subject to permitting and Disney negotiations, “we anticipate opening the Disney station shortly after opening the Orlando airport station.”
The rail network is a massive project requiring $4 billion in investments and will service Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. Additional stations are in development servicing Aventura, Boca Raton and Miami’s cruise port. An additional connection may also stop at the SunRail station which would provide a link between commuter rail and Orlando’s airport.
Brightline is owned by Fortress Investment Group. The company is private and has financed rail and station construction with loans. The Virgin Croup was to be a minority investor in Brighline and the company was hoping the partnership would allow Brightline to leverage Virgin’s industry-leading experience.
When the partnership was originally announced Branson shows much enthusiasm for the project saying that Virgin trains from Orlando would allow visitors to pick up Virgin cruises departing from the south of Florida. At the time Branson said, “Connecting Orlando to Miami is a real dream. It will transform the lives of many people.” According to the piece in the Sentinel, at the time Branson also said that Virgin had a “98 percent brand recognition in America and nearly 100 percent in Europe, whereas Brightline is really only known in Miami.”
As of going to print, the Brightline system hasn’t yet gotten new signage or new paint jobs with the exception of the Miami Station. According to the Sentinel. Personnel overseeing the train’s presence and construction at Orlando’s airport have been wearing the Virgin logo.
This a story that we’ll continue to follow closely here at MickeyBlog readers are encouraged to keep checking in with us for further news and updates
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Source: Orlando Sentinel