Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

This is a forum for all operations, both current and planned, of Virgin Rail USA formerly known as Brightline, and Virgin Worldwide Rail operations, past and present.
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gokeefe
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by gokeefe » Mon Feb 18, 2019 11:06 pm

That's is as good a theory as one might imagine.

Now we have to see if as with the English football club Manchester City whether or not the sheikhs live up to their generous reputation.
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David Benton
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by David Benton » Mon Feb 18, 2019 11:32 pm

Branson may be a showman, but he is also no fool. Nothing has really changed from when he brought in, he will have a plan. Virgin trains in the UK was hardly a show, and if he wanted such in the USA , I'm sure there are a lot better opportunities for glitter and glam than Brightline.
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mtuandrew
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by mtuandrew » Tue Feb 19, 2019 5:32 pm

I’m not sure there is anywhere else over here though, Mr. Benton, at least not in terms of transport. Of the four serious HSR projects in the US (in EIS stage or beyond), Virgin controls the two glitziest ones - Florida and LA-LV. If they put in an offer for the California HSR franchise as I expect they might (with massive SoftBank backing again), that makes three.

He could have bought a movie studio though, that would have made a splash.

Bonevalleyrailfan
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by Bonevalleyrailfan » Tue Feb 19, 2019 8:52 pm

Let me throw this out there: Brightline today reaffirmed that they are on track to go forward with their expansion plans using a combination of debt and equity financing.

https://www.wptv.com/news/state/despite ... peed-ahead

This may come as a surprise to those who seem to think that Brightline is losing too much money and can never be successful based only on the first months of full operation of phase 1. As has been pointed out previously, Brightline has always expected to lose money during the first years of operation, and that was assuming MIA-MCO would be operational from the very beginning of service (not staggered over 5 years like it is turning out to be). They have planned for a 3 year ramp up period before they meet ridership and revenue goals. So far they had almost 250k riders in Q4 of 2018 (or almost 33% of their projected final ridership for phase 1) after just 5 months of full service. They rightly say that they are on track at this point. Revenue is not matching ridership at this time, however. This could be due to several factors: continuing discounts on train fare to get people to try the new service; real estate development not online yet; delayed start of full service to Orlando with associated higher fares and revenue.

I have read some comments that Brightline should scale back their 17 weekday round trips to some level that does not cost them as much to operate. Isn't this what Amtrak is accused of doing? Trying to make money by cutting costs? IMO that would be the worst thing they could do at this point. Brightline is trying to be a viable alternative to driving and get people used to a frequent and reliable service. The last thing one would do at this point is reduce service and force potential riders to drive or use Uber/Lyft. At 1 million riders per year and assuming about 900 trains per month with 240 possible seats on each train, they are already around 38% load factor. Not knowing the breakdown of trips between each city pair, I can only go with the total numbers as it appears MIA-FTL is better patronized than WPB-FTL.

The numbers for January should be out very soon. If Brightline can maintain their previous rate of growth month to month, I have no worries about them meeting their goals.

Arlington
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by Arlington » Tue Feb 19, 2019 9:26 pm

^ Nice analysis.
I'm not sure what projections you're looking at, but it definitely matters--particularly for average fare-- whether projections assumed MCO was on the route.

I'd say the 17x rts are what's needed to compete with the personal (or ride-hail) auto on convenience.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Bonevalleyrailfan
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by Bonevalleyrailfan » Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:06 pm

The 3 year ramp up period and revenue projections were in the 2015 EIS documents and certain lease documents associated with the GOAA (MCO) ITF station and Beachline ROW back in 2013. That was before the phase 2 segment was delayed and represented AAF's original schedule. The opposition from the Treasure Coast has hurt them more than they are probably willing to admit. It has resulted in at least a 5 year delay getting to Orlando.

On the positive side, Brightline is backed by Wes Edens and the strength of Fortress/Softbank. For this reason alone, I do not see an $85M per year loss on startup to be something that would doom this project. This is a long term real estate development play. Brightline is not about running trains between points A and B. Check out the presentation to the city of Lakeland yesterday by Bob O'Malley (VP Government Affairs with Brightline). In this meeting it is clearly recognized that Brightline will only expand service if it is profitable.

https://www.theledger.com/news/20190218 ... tline-stop

video of the presentation to the city commissioners on Monday

https://vimeo.com/318031136

benboston
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by benboston » Sun Feb 24, 2019 10:24 am

On February 20th, I took a ride on Brightline from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. The ride was very smooth, the stations were clean, the trains were clean, the people were friendly, and overall it was as near to perfect as one can get in my opinion. I thought that every part of the process was seamless. Feel free to ask questions about what I experienced.

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Sun Feb 24, 2019 11:24 am

From Hilton West Boca Raton--

Ben, I'm glad to hear you had a great ride. They set a level of service that is simply hard to replicate.

As I've noted throught this and the related topic, Brightline has come far beyond where I ever xreamed it would. As most know, I thought it was simply a ploy to sell the FEC to the State, as they would appear to be the greatest party in interest considering the large investment they have to make the Port of Miami more than a "Love Tub Hub".

But now, even as the Treasure Coast communities have been told to "go stand in the corner and face the wall", it appears the financeing to "build it out" may not be available. Sir Richard has had his "splash" and has left town. His IPO is going nowhere.

The Private Activity Bonds issued so far are junk - C or lower - Private Activity implies no guarantee from any outside party. If Fortress/Softbank believes having Brightline will enhance the value of their real estate development activities in the three Gold Coast cities, they should be prepared to step up and guarantee any bonds issued by Brightline.

Otherwise, the Adios banners will be flying.

SouthernRailway
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by SouthernRailway » Sat Mar 02, 2019 4:09 pm

I just took Brightline the full route, as a round trip. It’s really excellent. It’s like first class on the Acela, but:

1. The stations are way nicer than any airport or train station that I’ve been in. They feel “cool”, with trendy music playing and a very stylish design. I’m an Admirals Club member and the Brightline Select lounges are certainly comparable or even better, particularly when you consider that Brightline for now is only for 70 mile trips. Since when does a short-haul transit provider have people walking around lounges offering to top off your Chardonnay?

2. Since when does a short-haul transit provider offer a snack basket and unlimited drinks and a meal and towel service?

3. Employees are super-nice and super-helpful. One even walked me to the Select lounge in Miami “because you shouldn’t miss it even though we’re about to board.”

4. Technology is very good. Since to wave your phone over a turnstile to enter the main part of the station and the lounge, tickets aren’t collected on board.

5. Even the small touches are perfect. For example, employees in the station platform wave at the train when its leaving. It makes you feel good.

This is a superb customer experience and beats everything else.

dowlingm
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by dowlingm » Sun Mar 03, 2019 9:25 am

It will be interesting to see if the commitment to customer service continues over the long term. Porter Airlines (based in Toronto Island Airport) was a huge step forward when it started but now the Terminal is getting crowded and the amenities thinner. Still beats schlepping to YYZ of course.

The notion of developing a train service on the back of property development is attractive on its face, but when the revenue from said development has been garnered, and easy expansion targets are taken in, what is the source of the railroad’s future capital needs? Is that not the point when the shareholders throw the keys on the table and tell the State to pick them up if they choose?

SouthernRailway
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by SouthernRailway » Sun Mar 03, 2019 6:46 pm

It’s definitely higher-end transportation. I would be concerned that it will be competing with airlines so directly that it would need to lower fares to compete with them, and thus not be able to generate fares for a premium service.

I see that it is planned to run from Miami to Orlando. Its downtown Miami station is 15-ish minutes to the airport by car (on Saturday, so perhaps more in rush hour) and around 30 minutes by rail, its Fort Lauderdale station is near that airport (the tracks go right by it and the station is just minutes away) and its end station will be at the Orlando airport. It’s definitely more pleasant than flying but seems that its route will be so directly competitive with air travel, much more than Amtrak’s NEC line is. I checked MIA-MCO fares and they’re as low as $121 round trip, but at least around $400 for first class.

One thing that Brightline should do is have a tie-in with United and Delta airline frequent flyer programs once Orlando service starts, to help ensure that people who are going to pay a higher cost than driving won’t just fly.

Bottom line:

Brightline is a fantastic experience.

Fortress wouldn’t have invested in this without doing its homework.

I don’t really get why it picked Miami-Orlando and Miami alone for starters, but clearly there is some type of market there. I am also not familiar enough with Southern California to analyze its LA to Las Vegas route but serving the Strip in Las Vegas seems like a real winner.

ExCon90
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by ExCon90 » Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:22 pm

LA-Las Vegas should be a terrific market at all hours (and with accommodation for high-end passengers at that) but I think that whoever does it will have to get closer to LA than Victorville to make it work.

njt/mnrrbuff
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by njt/mnrrbuff » Wed Mar 06, 2019 8:30 pm

Well, if the service is going to run from Southern California to Las Vegas, it would be nice if it would go directly to Downtown Los Angeles. People who live in Los Angeles, especially on the Westside and in Downtown are not going to want to drive to Fullerton or Victorville to board the train.

ExCon90
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by ExCon90 » Thu Mar 07, 2019 3:22 pm

It seems that the worst of it is between LA and Victorville; I've never driven it, but I'd think that once you make it from LA to Victorville the rest would be comparatively a piece of cake--might as well drive the rest of the way.

njt/mnrrbuff
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Re: Virgin Rail née Brightline/AAF Orlando - Miami FL FEC

Post by njt/mnrrbuff » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:18 pm

Between San Bernardino and Victorville is probably the worst of it since, unless if a direct straight set of tracks can get built, then the passenger trains to Vegas would have to play around with negotiating the twisting and turning of the Transcon over Cajon Pass.

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