Brightline
Brightline train at Southern Blvd in 2017
Overview
Service typeHigher-speed inter-city rail
LocaleFlorida, United States
First serviceJanuary 13, 2018; 6 years ago (2018-01-13)
Current operator(s)Florida East Coast Industries
Ridership2,053,893 (2023) [1]
Websitegobrightline.com
Route
TerminiMiami
Orlando
Stops6
Distance travelled235 mi (378 km)[2]
Average journey time3.5 hours
Service frequencyHourly
On-board services
Class(es)
  • Premium (business class)
  • Smart (coach)
Disabled accessLevel boarding
Seating arrangements
  • 2×2 (smart)
  • 2×1 (premium)
Catering facilitiesAt-seat service
Baggage facilitiesOverhead racks, checked baggage available
Technical
Rolling stock
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Operating speed
  • Orlando-Cocoa:
  • 125 mph (200 km/h)
  • Cocoa-West Palm Beach:
  • 110 mph (180 km/h)[3]
  • West Palm Beach-Miami:
  • 80 mph (130 km/h)
Track owner(s)
Route map
Map Brightline route highlighted in yellow
to Tampa (proposed)
"Basecamp"
(Vehicle Maintenance Facility)
Orlando enlarge…
Orlando International Airport People Movers
to Jacksonville (proposed)
Cocoa
(planned)
Stuart
(planned)
"Workshop b"
(Running Repair Facility)
West Palm Beach
Boca Raton
Fort Lauderdale
I-595.svg
I-595
Port Everglades Expressway
Aventura
I-395.svg
I-395
Dolphin Expressway
MiamiCentral enlarge…
Tri-Rail

Handicapped/disabled access All stations are accessible

Brightline (reporting mark BLFX) is an inter-city rail route in the United States that runs between Miami and Orlando, Florida. Part of the route runs on track owned and shared by the Florida East Coast Railway.

Brightline is the only privately owned and operated intercity passenger railroad in the United States. Its development started in March 2012 as All Aboard Florida by Florida East Coast Industries, a Floridian real estate developer owned by Fortress Investment Group. Construction began in November 2014 and the route began revenue service in January 2018, initially between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach; the Miami to Fort Lauderdale segment began revenue service in May of that year. Infill stations at Aventura and Boca Raton opened in December 2022, and the West Palm Beach to Orlando segment began revenue service in September 2023.[4] Additional stops are being planned for the route.[5]

Brightline's maximum operating speed is 125 mph (200 km/h). Trains cover the 235 mi (378 km)[2] route in 3 hours and 25 minutes,[6] with an average speed of 69 mph (111 km/h).

Origins and history

Former All Aboard Florida logo

In 2012, All Aboard Florida, a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), announced plans to operate passenger rail service between Miami and Orlando.[7] The construction was projected at the time to be $1.5 billion.[8] In March 2013, All Aboard Florida applied for a $1.6 billion Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan, which was administered by the Federal Railroad Administration,[9] and in late 2014, the company applied for a $1.75 billion private activity bond allocation, with proceeds from the bond sale substantially reducing or replacing entirely the amount of the RRIF loan request.[10]

The company received a Finding of No Significant Impact from the Federal Railroad Administration in January 2013, effectively clearing way for work to begin between Miami and West Palm Beach.[11] The Final Environmental Impact Statement was released on August 4, 2015.[12] By the beginning of 2015, the company had started site work at the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations, plus right-of-way improvements along stretches of the corridor. On November 10, 2015, All Aboard Florida announced that the service would operate under the name Brightline.[13]

Service between Miami and West Palm Beach began on May 19, 2018.[14][15]

In September 2018, Brightline acquired XpressWest, a private company that intends to connect Las Vegas, Nevada with Southern California via Victorville, California. Brightline announced the intent of purchasing 38 acres of land near the Las Vegas Strip for a station and following the Interstate 15 corridor from Las Vegas to Southern California.[16]

Two key counties on the coastal route north of the West Palm Beach station have, for various reasons, been fighting the extension of the rail line through Martin and Indian River Counties in court. One of their objections is that Brightline is owned by a private corporation, so they should not be allowed to issue tax-exempt bonds as if they were a municipality. On December 24, 2018, after four years of legal battles,[17] a Federal District Judge threw out a suit by Indian River County that claimed the U.S. Department of Transportation improperly approved the bond allocation, clearing the way for construction of the new rail corridor through the Treasure Coast and Space Coast.[18][19][20] On October 5, 2020, the US Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of that decision, ending Indian River County's efforts to stymie development. The county's efforts at a Supreme Court hearing were financed with over $200,000 in private donations in addition to over $4 million in County funds.[21]

In April 2019, the company secured $1.75 billion in funding for the Orlando extension and said construction would begin right away.[22][23][24]

In November 2018, it was announced that Virgin Group would become a minority investor in the railroad and would provide rights to rebrand the service as Virgin Trains USA.[25] However, in August 2020, railroad managers announced that Virgin had not provided the agreed investment money and the company would be ending its branding deal, returning to the previous Brightline brand.[26][27][28] In March 2021, Virgin sued Brightline for $251.3 million because of the broken contract.[29][30] In October 2023, Virgin won the lawsuit and the judge awarded Virgin $115 million in damages.[31]

Construction

Construction on MiamiCentral in 2015

Construction began on the Miami–West Palm Beach section with the laying of new tracks and closure of the temporary surface lots in Government Center, Downtown Miami, in mid-2014.[32] Preliminary work on the Miami station, such as site preparation and demolition, began later in the year.[33] Suffolk Construction was the general contractor for the Miami station.[34] Piles were being set on the four lots of MiamiCentral in early 2015.[35]

On October 29, 2014, work on the Fort Lauderdale station began with the demolition of existing buildings on the site.[36] A groundbreaking ceremony for the West Palm Beach station was held in November 2014.[37] Moss & Associates, of Fort Lauderdale, was the general contractor for the West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale stations.[38]

In January 2015, crews started replacing track throughout the corridor.[39][40] All Aboard Florida secured leasing of easement rights alongside the Beachline from the Central Florida Expressway Authority for $1.4 million in December 2015.

Construction work on Phase 2, between West Palm Beach and Orlando, officially began in June 2019, with a groundbreaking ceremony at Orlando International Airport.[41] Preliminary work on the corridor began in September 2019, in the area of Jensen Beach and Sebastian,[42] and began path clearing for construction of the Orlando–Cocoa portion in October of that year.[43]

As of May 2019, the contractors on the project were the Hubbard Construction Company, Wharton-Smith Inc., The Middlesex Corporation, Granite, and HSR Constructors. These five contractors are responsible for the development of 170 miles (270 km) of new track into the completed state-of-the-art intermodal facility located in the new South Terminal at the Orlando International Airport (MCO).[44]

In 2019, Brightline operations sent a letter to the city of Boca Raton about the possibility of adding their city as an infill station along the Florida route. Brightline proposed constructing the station and rail infrastructure while the city would cover access and zoning requirements and costs.[45] In December 2019, the former community garden next to the Boca Raton Public Library was officially chosen as a station site for the station.[46][47]

In October 2019, Miami-Dade County allocated $76 million to build a Brightline Aventura station by the Aventura Mall in Ojus, Florida, between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. At the time of the announcement, the projected opening date was October 2020.[48] Groundbreaking on the station occurred in September 2020.[49] On June 21, 2023, it was announced that construction was completed.[50][51][52][53][54][55][56]

Opening

Revenue service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach began on January 13, 2018.[57][58] Revenue service between Miami and Fort Lauderdale began on May 19, 2018.[14][15] The station in Boca Raton began service on December 21, 2022, while the station in Aventura began service on December 24, 2022.[59][60] Revenue service between West Palm Beach and Orlando began on September 22, 2023.[4]

Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic

Brightline suspended operations on March 25, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[61] All train services ceased, and the company cut 250 jobs.[62] Construction north to Orlando continued, as well as plans for the stations in Aventura and Boca Raton.[63][64]

In January 2021, the company stated that service would begin again in "late 2021," contrary to their earlier estimate of the third quarter of 2021. The company said that most station and operations staff would be brought back approximately 30–60 days before services resumed. Throughout January 2021 and May 2021, the trains ran occasionally with no passengers, in order to test an upgraded corridor between the West Palm Beach and Miami train stations.[62] Services resumed on November 8, 2021, between West Palm Beach and Miami.[65]

Service

Schematic of rapid transit and passenger rail service in the Miami metropolitan area in 2017. The Tri-Rail Downtown Miami Link became operational on January 13, 2024.

Route

The route is made up of the following stations, from north to south:

County Station Brightline
in-service date
Time to
Miami
Connections
Orange County Orlando International Airport September 22, 2023[4] 210 min Orlando International Airport
Lynx: Links 11, 42, 51, 111, 311, 407 & 436S
SunRail Train to Plane: Link 111 Nonstop Express
Palm Beach County West Palm Beach January 13, 2018 72-80 min Palm Tran: 1, 40, 41, & The Bolt 1
Palm Trolley: Yellow Line
Tri-Rail Commuter Connector: WPB-1
Boca Raton December 21, 2022[59] 51 min Palm Tran: 1, 94
Broward County Fort Lauderdale January 13, 2018 30-33 min Broward County Transit (at Central Terminal): 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, 14, 20, 22, 30, 31, 40, 50, 60, 81, 101 (US 1 Breeze)
Sun Trolley: Downtown Link, Neighborhood Link, & NW Community Link
Tri-Rail Commuter Connector: FL-1, FL-3
Miami-Dade County Aventura December 24, 2022[60] 17 min Metrobus
Broward County Transit (at Aventura Mall): 1, 28, 101 (US 1 Breeze)
MiamiCentral May 19, 2018[14][15] Metrorail (at Government Center): Green Line, Orange Lines, Downtown Express
Metromover (at Government Center): Omni Loop, Brickell Loop, Inner Loop
Metrobus: 2, 3, 7, 9, 11, 21, 51, 77, 93, 95, S (119), 120, 207, 208, 246, 277, 500
Broward County Transit: 109 (95 Express), 110 (595 Express)
Miami Trolley: Coral Way
Tri-Rail

Schedule

As of September 2023, there are 18 daily round trips between Miami and West Palm Beach of which 16 cover the full route between Miami and Orlando. Roughly half of trains make all stops along the line, while the remainder skip Boca Raton station.[6]

Ridership

During the first two and a half months of introductory service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, ridership totaled 74,780, increasing from 17,800 in January to 32,900 in March 2018.[66] The company itself announced that the ridership has been triple what had been expected.[67] The forecast provided to bond investors calls for 240,000 passengers per month by 2020, which includes service to Miami,[68] and analyst Fitch Ratings has said that the company could break even at 56% of their ridership forecast.[67]

By the end of 2018, almost 600,000 passengers had ridden the train,[69] and the line welcomed its 1 millionth rider in August 2019.[70]

Service was suspended from March 2020 until November 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In August 2022, Brightline transported over 100,000 passengers. This was the first time it crossed the 100,000 passengers per month mark.[71] In December 2022, Brightline served over 183,000 riders.[72]

In April 2024 Brightline Florida carried 223,117 riders, which was an increase of 48% year over year.[73]

Ridership by year

Year Ridership
2018 579,000[69]
2019 885,000[74]
2020 N/A
2021 159,474[75]
2022 1,230,494[75]
2023 2,053,893[1]

Stations

The five South Florida stations were designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in association with Zyscovich Architects.[76] Rockwell Group designed the interiors.[77] All of the Brightline stations have adjacent parking at a paid rate per day.[78]

Miami

Main article: MiamiCentral

The downtown Miami station, known as MiamiCentral (not to be confused with Miami Central Station, now known as Miami Intermodal Center, near Miami International Airport), spans 9 acres (3.6 ha) located just east of Miami-Dade County Hall and includes 3 million square feet (280,000 m2) of mixed-use development with residential, office and commercial, and a retail concourse. The station connects Brightline with the Metrorail, Metromover, Metrobus, City of Miami trolley, and Tri-Rail systems.[79][80] This increases connections to activities and tourist destinations, including the Performing Arts Center, Bayside Market and Bayfront Park. Service to Miami began on May 19, 2018.[14][15] Tri-Rail service commenced in January 2024.[80]

Aventura

Main article: Aventura station

The Aventura station is located on West Dixie Highway west of the Aventura Mall in Ojus, Florida. The station is 34,000 sq ft (3,200 m2) on a 3 acre site. There are 240 parking spaces at the Aventura station, as well as a Miami-Dade Transit bus drop-off.[81] Complimentary shuttle service is available to and from the mall. In the future, it will include another bridge that will connect the platform to Aventura Mall, and it will serve as the terminus of planned Northeast Corridor Rapid Transit Project commuter rail service.

Fort Lauderdale

Main article: Fort Lauderdale station (Brightline)

The Fort Lauderdale station is located at NW 2nd Avenue between Broward Boulevard and NW 4th Street. The four-acre station site has a 60,000 sq ft (5,600 m2) station and platform. The Brightline train service in Ft. Lauderdale connects to the Sun Trolley and Broward County Transit system.[82] Brightline also owns about three acres of land to the east of the Florida East Coast Railway corridor, where there are plans to build a transit-oriented development.[83]

Boca Raton

Main article: Boca Raton station (Brightline)

The Boca Raton station is located next to the Boca Raton Public Library. The station is 22,000 sq ft (2,000 m2) on a 1.8-acre site across from Mizner Park. The station has access to a 455-space parking garage that will also provide dedicated free parking for library patrons.

West Palm Beach

Main article: West Palm Beach station (Brightline)

The West Palm Beach station is located between Datura and Evernia Streets and to the west of Quadrille. The two-acre station site has a 60,000 sq ft (5,600 m2) station and platform that connect with the neighborhood's existing vehicular, trolley and pedestrian networks and establish links to the Tri-Rail, Palm Tran Downtown Trolley and Amtrak West Palm Beach station.[84]

Orlando

Main article: Orlando International Airport Intermodal Terminal

In 2017, the new Orlando International Airport Intermodal Terminal at Orlando International Airport was opened.[85] Brightline terminates at this station after the 170-mile (270 km) Orlando Extension track was built. Trains run up to 125 mph (200 km/h) with a travel time of approximately 3.5 hours from Orlando's airport to Miami.[86][87] The first test run of the Brightline train into Orlando station happened on May 17, 2022.[88] Revenue service began on September 22, 2023.[4]

Planned and proposed routes and destinations

Tampa

As of September 2019, Brightline is in negotiations with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to lease right-of-way along the Interstate 4 corridor.[89] Brightline was the only bidder to submit a proposal to construct an intercity rail line along Interstate 4, which has been designated for federally funded high-speed rail.[89] This would be utilized for an extension of the line from Orlando International Airport to Tampa.[89] Potential stops along this route are the SunRail Meadow Woods station and Lakeland.[89] The deadline for the negotiations between Central Florida Expressway Authority, FDOT, and Brightline was March 31, 2020.[90] In September 2020, the railroad entered into a memorandum of understanding with a local developer to potentially construct the terminal station in Ybor City.[91]

In November 2020, Brightline and Walt Disney World Resort announced an agreement to build a station in Disney Springs as a part of its Tampa extension. The high-speed rail corridor between Disney Springs and Orlando International Airport was projected to cost $1 billion and travel alongside Florida State Road 417. While the project has yet to secure needed funding, passenger service was planned to start by 2026.[92] Then, on May 5, 2022, Universal Orlando offered 13 acres of land near the site where Universal Epic Universe is being built for a commuter station, as well as bond guarantees. This was claimed to promote construction of an extension of Brightline that would include a brief confluence with SunRail between SunRail's Meadow Woods and Pine Castle stations, and lead through Disney eventually to Tampa. They did not mention the existing proposal to run Brightline down SR 417 to Disney Springs, but it did suggest a future SunRail service to Epic Universe, the Orange County Convention Center, and Disney Springs.[93] On June 27, 2022, Disney announced that Brightline would not run on their Walt Disney World park property; however Brightline said it would still build a station near Disney World to get riders as close as possible.[94]

Stuart

Main article: Stuart station (Brightline)

On March 4, 2024, Brightline officially announced that an infill station on the Treasure Coast would be built in Stuart. The current plan sees the station beginning service by the end of 2026.[95][96]

Cocoa

Main article: Cocoa station

On March 12, 2024, Brightline officially announced that an infill station on the Space Coast would be built in Cocoa. However, a timeline for construction or opening has not yet been established.[97][98]

Future expansion

Jacksonville

As part of the initial construction for Brightline, All Aboard Florida said it was considering an extension to Jacksonville, Florida.[99] Brightline currently owns passenger trackage rights along the entire Florida East Coast Railway corridor, making the prospect of an expansion of Brightline to Jacksonville much simpler due to some of the existing rail infrastructure already in place. However, no commitment has been made in writing, as starting the development of the line to Tampa is the top priority for Brightline.[100]

Commuter rail

Main article: Northeast Corridor Rapid Transit Project

In 2020, it was revealed that Brightline and local governments were planning a commuter rail service to complement the existing Brightline service. Referred to as the Northeast Corridor,[101] trains would run between MiamiCentral and Aventura with five stations between.[101] Brightline and the Miami-Dade County Commission agreed to access fees in November 2020.[102] The estimated cost for full buildout of the line is $325 million.[101] Operations were expected to start as early as 2024.[103] By 2023, station locations had been identified and service frequencies for trains were expected to be every 30 to 60 minutes.[104]

In 2021, the Florida Department of Transportation and Broward County executed a memorandum of understanding to implement a passenger transportation system along the FEC corridor. Plans call for a 27-mile (43 km) commuter rail route starting at Aventura station in the south and running as far north as Deerfield Beach.[105] Service could start in 2028.[106]

It has also been proposed that the commuter service could go through Palm Beach County if a deal is reached with the county, stopping at destinations such as Delray Beach and going as far north as Jupiter, the latter of which has no passenger rail service.[107]

Brightline West (Greater Los Angeles to Las Vegas)

Main article: Brightline West

On September 18, 2018, Fortress Investment Group announced that it would acquire XpressWest, a venture capital proposal to build a privately funded high-speed rail passenger train from Apple Valley, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, from hotel developer Marnell Corrao Associates.[108][109][110] When Fortress subsequently entered into its partnership with Virgin Group in 2019, it was announced that the newly formed consortium will build and operate XpressWest when it opens.[111] In September 2020, Fortress Investment Group renamed the project Brightline West.

Despite funding difficulties; Brightline West has secured $3 billion dollars from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and $2.5 billion dollars of private activity bonds from the US Department of Transportation.[112][113] Construction for the 180-mile (290 km) long track started in April 22, 2024.[114] They plan on carrying passengers between Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga with speeds of up to 200 mph (320 km/h) for an 85-minute trip. Trains on this line will be fully electric and run mostly in the median of Interstate 15. Fortress's Wes Edens has stated that Brightline's service is modeled off of Eurostar's Paris-to-London commute. Its coach design includes white-and-blue interiors, roomy seating, and free Wi-Fi.[87]

Future corridor aspirations

Wes Edens has also expressed interest for Brightline in interviews during the Brightline West groundbreaking ceremony to connect other city pairings which are denoted by Brightline as "Too Long To Drive & Too Short To Fly", with the new "Brightline 2.0" model of utilizing Interstate land and medians to connect city pairs up. With Edens using example of city pairs such as:[115][116][117][118][119][120]

Maps

Other corridors have been shown on official Brightline "Too Long To Drive & Too Short To Fly" maps with more denoted corridors than mentioned above:

Engineering

Train speeds and comparative travel times

Upon full buildout of the Miami–Orlando route, trains operate at up to 79 mph (130 km/h) between Miami and West Palm Beach, up to 110 mph (180 km/h) between West Palm Beach and Cocoa, and up to 125 mph (200 km/h) between Cocoa and the Orlando International Airport.[124] A future extension to Tampa from Orlando is in the planning stages. Originally, trains on this corridor would operate at up to 125 mph (200 km/h); but recently, a maximum speed of 150 mph (240 km/h) has been reported more frequently as of 2024. Although unconfirmed, these speeds may potentially mean Brightline Tampa sharing similar infrastructure and rolling stock that will be seen with Brightline West.[125][126] It is one of the few rail services in the United States to approach the lowest high-speed rail standard set by the International Union of Railways of 200 km/h (125 mph).[127][128]

The travel time between Miami and Orlando is around 3+12 hours.[129] Driving (without traffic) between the two takes 3+12 hours using the Florida's Turnpike, and 3+34 hours using the I-95/SR 528 freeways along the planned train route via Cocoa. The flight time between MIA and MCO (Orlando International Airport) is 1 hour, though with the suggested 2 hour arrival at the airport prior to departure by airlines, the flight trip is around 3 hours (not including last mile transportation). In High speed rail in Europe and East Asia, the travel time at which rail starts to attract a significant sector of the rail/air travel sector is usually given as around four hours with rail becoming dominant over air travel at travel times below three hours.

To meet the 3-hour schedule, trains operate with an overall average speed of 80 mph (130 km/h), which is similar to the overall average speed of the Amtrak Acela operating on the Northeast Corridor between New York City and Washington, D.C.[130][131][132]

Pre-existing Miami–Cocoa Corridor upgrades

The project to connect Miami and Orlando called for more than $1.5 billion in upgrades to the rail corridor between Miami and Cocoa. The company double tracked the corridor, improved signaling systems, and upgraded every grade crossing to meet the highest applicable safety standards set by FDOT and Federal Railroad Administration.[133][134] In January 2013, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Miami–Cocoa phase of the project, effectively clearing the way for work to begin.[135] Part of the corridor safety upgrades included installing positive train control (PTC), which enhances Brightline's ability to monitor and control train movements safely.[136]

Quiet zones

Responding to citizen concerns about increased noise from additional horns, the company stated that it will work with local communities to implement quiet zones where possible.[137] Federal law requires quiet zone requests to originate from the local authority that has jurisdiction over the roadway, not the railroad company.[138]

In August 2014, the company announced a partnership with the Broward and Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organizations to implement quiet zones between the city of Hallandale Beach and 15th Street in West Palm Beach.[139] In December 2014, the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization approved funding to construct quiet zones between PortMiami and the northern Miami-Dade County line.[140] The quiet zones were originally planned to be in place when Brightline would become operational between Miami and West Palm Beach by the end of 2017. Brightline started service on January 11, 2018, but various delays in constructing the quiet zones stretched their in-service date to sometime in March.[141]

On May 14, 2018, quiet zones went into effect in West Palm Beach, in Lake Worth on May 21 and in Boca Raton on May 30. The "no train horn" areas apply to all trains, freight and passenger.[142] Quiet Zones remove the legal duty of a train engineer to sound the horn. Train engineers do still use the horn in quiet zones for emergency situations (such as a trespasser fouling the tracks).[143]

Bridges

The FEC rail corridor includes a number of fixed-span bridges that were replaced as part of the project. Most did not require United States Coast Guard (USCG) permitting as they do not span significant navigable waterways and clearances did not change. Twelve other bridges—St. Johns River, Eau Gallie River, St. Sebastian River, Crane Creek, Turkey Creek, West Palm Beach Canal, Boynton Canal, Middle River (both the North and South Fork), Oleta River, Arch Creek and Hillsboro Canal— required permitting by the USCG. In addition, the project called for significant investment and upgrades to three movable bridges: St. Lucie, Loxahatchee, and New River. These improvements ensure that bridge mechanical systems for raising and lowering the bridge spans are either fully upgraded or replaced. The company has stated that, prior to it becoming operational, it would start to regularly notify mariners of scheduled bridge closings via the internet, smart phone application and countdown signage on the bridges to enable mariners to have real-time information to decrease wait times at each bridge. Also, the company would station a bridge tender at the New River bridge.[144]

Prior to the opening of service to Orlando, Brightline began asking municipalities around the St. Lucie River to support a potential federal grant to fund the replacement of the single-track rail bridge over the river with a new, raised double-track span.[145]
In January 2024, the Biden administration funded the construction of the bridge with a $130 million grant from the National Infrastructure Project Assistance (Mega) grant program.[146]

Cocoa–Orlando

The line between Cocoa and Orlando is the only segment that did not have existing track or right-of-way owned by FEC. Originally, the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) believed it could accommodate building new tracks for the project within the BeachLine Expressway's 300-foot (91 m) wide right-of-way. This segment of the proposed line would operate at speeds of up to 125 mph (200 km/h).[147][148] Other high speed rail corridors have in the past been built next to highways as well – for example the Cologne–Frankfurt high-speed rail line runs parallel to the A3 federal highway for more than half of its 180 kilometres (110 mi) length.

CFX began negotiations with Deseret Ranch, which owns the land just south of the BeachLine, to purchase additional land in order to widen the right-of-way. According to a pact made on July 16, 2013, CFX tentatively agreed to pay $12 million for an extra 200 ft (61 m) along the 22-mile (35 km) BeachLine corridor between Cocoa and Orlando International Airport.[149] In early October 2013, CFX and All Aboard Florida reached a formal purchase agreement for the land required for the right-of-way. Although construction was slated to originally begin in early 2015, construction of the segment started on May 22, 2019.[150][151]

Also in October 2013, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) board approved development of a station and maintenance facility on Orlando International Airport property, as well as an easement to build track between the station and the mainline to the coast.[152]

For the initial opening of the line, it is single tracked for most of the route, however all the bridges and infrastructure are designed for double track thus saving effort when upgrading.[153]

Maintenance

Brightline has two maintenance facilities. Their primary vehicle maintenance facility, Basecamp, is located near the Orlando International Airport and opened in early 2023 to commission and service trains prior to the beginning of service to Orlando.[154]

Brightline's secondary Running Repair Facility, workshop b, is located north of the West Palm Beach station, and designed for maintenance and minor repair work that does not require the train to be removed from service. The facility includes a maintenance pit for accessing the underside of the trains and can handle up to four 10-car train sets.[155]

Rolling stock

All Aboard Florida ordered five Siemens trainsets in 2014. Each Brightline trainset initially consisted of four passenger coaches, with a Siemens Charger SCB-40 diesel-electric locomotive on each end.[156][157] The coaches, with interiors designed by the LAB at Rockwell Group,[158] feature ergonomic seating, Wi-Fi, and level boarding, and meet ADA standards. Each trainset holds 248 passengers.[14] Working with All Aboard Florida, the LAB also conceived the Brightline name, brand platform, and visual identity.[159] The entire trainset, including passenger cars, were manufactured by Siemens in its solar-powered plant in Florin, California. Brightline's plan originally called for the trainsets to be expanded to seven coaches, and five more complete trainsets would be purchased once the route to Orlando went into operation.[160][161] The first of five trainsets departed the Siemens factory on December 8, 2016,[162] and arrived in West Palm Beach on December 14.[163] The fifth trainset arrived in South Florida in October 2017.[164] The final of the additional five train sets for the Orlando service arrived in February 2023, with these train sets only having four coaches instead of the planned seven.[165]

The trains offer two classes of service, with one "Premium" coach and three "Smart" coaches on each trainset. "Premium" offers 2x1 and four-to-a-table seating with 50 21-inch (530 mm)-wide seats per car and complimentary snacks and beverages, while the slightly less expensive "Smart" fare coaches seat 66 with narrower 19-inch (480 mm)-wide seats, with snacks and beverages available for purchase.[166][167]

Photo Model Year Total Nos. Power Weight Seating
Siemens Charger
SCB-40 locomotives
2017 10 units[157] 101-110 4,000 hp (3,000 kW)[168] 267,000 lb (121,000 kg)[169] n/a
2023 11 units[170] 111-121 n/a
Siemens Venture trainsets 2017 40

units (+20 future units)

5 four-car trainsets[157] 201-205 (Premium), 401-405, 431-440 (Smart) unpowered 112,000 lb (50,802 kg) per coach[171] 248 (50 Premium, 198 Smart) per four-car trainset
2023 5 four-car trainsets[170] 206-210 (Premium), 406-410, 441-450 (Smart) 248 (50 Premium, 198 Smart) per four-car trainset
2025 20 cars in production to lengthen existing trainsets[172] TBD TBD

Accidents and incidents

Due to having a number of level crossings in built up areas, there have been numerous incidents of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists being on the tracks when a train passed, several of them resulting in fatalities. 100 deaths have been connected to Brightline operations since 2017.[173] According to AP analysis, as of February 2022 the train averaged one death per 35,000 miles (56,000 km) traveled, the highest rate in the nation.[174] Notable incidents include a 27 year old in Pompano Beach and a 56 year old in Hollywood being killed within a two day period in April 2022,[175][176] a viral video from April 2023 showing a Brightline locomotive colliding with a trailer of luxury cars,[177] and a fatality on September 28, 2023 just days after the line was extended to Orlando.[178][179] Three people were killed in two separate accidents on January 10 and 12, 2024 at the same crossing in Melbourne.[180][181] There have however been no onboard fatalities as a consequence of accidents.

Law enforcement and federal reports found that the deaths were not caused by crew error or faulty equipment, but were all related to either suicides, or people trying to cross and beat the trains.[182] Outside railroad experts add that the problem lies with Floridians, used to trying to beat slower freight trains on the line, and not the new higher speed passenger trains.[183] In many other countries – for example Germany[184] – level crossings are not allowed to exist where trains faster than 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) pass through, and in Japan - a nation very heavily reliant on rail transport - lines with grade crossings are restricted to 80 miles per hour (130 km/h) at maximum. [185]

Brightline has received criticism for only installing the minimum required safety features along the line at opening. After opening the line, Brightline has applied for federal funding to add safety features at problematic crossings and fence in areas where people are known to trespass on tracks.[183]

See also

References

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Further reading

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